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5 Ways to Celebrate New Year’s with Kids

New Year’s Eve is almost upon us.  If you still haven’t figured out how to celebrate New Year’s with kids, we’ve got some fabulous solutions right here.  Check out our ideas for festive, meaningful and thrilling ways to ring in the New Year:

Countdown to Noon Party

Everyone loves a party, especially the kiddos.  Invite a few friend or neighbors over for a festive midday New Year’s Eve party.  Go all out with streamers, party hats, noise makers and other decorations.  Get funky by playing all sorts of music and having a family dance party, or make your own music with instruments around the house.  (Kids love banging on pots and pans if you don’t have any instruments handy.)  You can serve fun snacks including sparkling juice in plastic champagne glasses.  If you want to add an element, encourage all of the kids to come dressed up, either in their finest attire or a costume.

At noon or any other time you designate – after all, it’s always midnight somewhere, right? – stop the festivities for a formal countdown.  Your kids will love participating in the countdown and then starting the ruckus all over again.  Let the kids go wild for awhile to really soak in the celebration.

Buy or Make a New Calendar

Kids who attend preschool starting at around 2 years of age usually get their first introduction to calendars in the classroom environment.  Teachers often incorporate the months, days of the week, dates and seasons into ritual class meeting times.  While your little one may not understand the concept of long-term time yet, it is good to start the initial foundation for this knowledge young.  To celebrate New Year’s, let your kids pick out a 2016 calendar of their own, or spend time making one with your favorite family photos from 2015.  Buy fun stickers and go through the calendar marking off special holidays, birthdays, school days and vacations you may have planned in 2016.

Have one Last Family Dinner in 2015

If your holidays were filled with huge family gatherings, it may be nice to take this New Year’s holiday a little slower.  Enjoy one last meal together as a family in 2015 by trying something different.  Some ideas include exploring cultural cuisine from around the world, making your own pizzas or fondue.  Dining over a new culinary experience is a great way to ring in the New Year with fresh perspective.

Create a Laser Light Show in your House

Your little tots may not be old enough to stay up for the fireworks display but you can create a cool colorful light show in your own home instead.  You can find relatively inexpensive wall or ceiling projector toys that can help with the show or look for light-up toys and flashlights around your house.  You can even change the bulb color in some of your flashlights to make them more colorful.  Find a dark room, perhaps in the basement or a closet, and use all of your light gadgets to set off virtual fireworks for your kids.

Talk about New Year’s Resolutions

For kids who are old enough to understand, talk about New Year’s Resolutions in their terms.  Start by explaining that he New Year is a great time to start fresh and think about the things we want to improve in the coming year.  You can tell your kids some of your personal New Year’s resolutions and encourage them to set goals too.  Anything from trying to share more to being better about brushing their teeth are excellent resolutions for kids.  Also talk about family New Year’s resolutions, like being more present during family meals and helping each other with household tasks.

We hope you enjoy these ways to celebrate New Year’s with kids.  Happy New Year!

New Years Traditions, Superstitions and Good Luck

New year greetings with gold color decorations. New Year is the time at which a new calendar year begins and the calendar's year count increments by one.

As we round the corner to the end of the year, it’s a fun time to think about New Year’s traditions, superstitions and good luck.  You may not believe in any of it, but it is interesting to hear the meaning behind certain customs that have weaved their ways into our modern lives.  And if you’re in need of a bit of luck this New Year, maybe try a few of these traditions to turn the tide on your happiness in the coming year.

Fireworks Celebrations:  Fireworks are a beautiful and exciting way to celebrate a New Year, but they also have a specific purpose.  It was once believed that making lots of loud noise on New Years will scare away evil spirits.  Fireworks are definitely loud but you can also use instruments, noise makers and shouts to keep evil at bay in your New Year.

Kissing at Midnight:  Kissing at midnight symbolizes closeness and love in the coming year.  While those who don’t have a significant other may hate this tradition, it also works by hugging a friend.  But make sure it is someone you actually like because you may be connected to this person for the entire year!

Eating Black-Eyed Peas and Greens:  These New Years food traditions began in the South but have made their way across the globe.  Black-eyed peas represent good luck and can be prepared in a variety of ways to bring on goodness.  Greens stand for money.  So eating your spinach, kale and broccoli on New Years may just make you richer…or at least bring you the wealth of better health.

Stay Home and Don’t Wash Anything:  Many people believe you should not leave your house on New Years Day and that you should not take anything out of your house either.  Similarly, some believe that washing anything – from clothes to dishes – can wash away good fortune.  So stay put and don’t do chores – can you handle that?

New Years Celebrations Represent the rest of your Year:  Whatever you do on New Years may be a tell-tale sign of your year to come.  If you celebrate with friends and family, your year will be full of togetherness.  But if you cry on New Years, you may have a year of sadness.  Also, try not to break anything on New Years day to avoid a “broken” year.

Babies Born on New Years are Extremely Lucky:  Did you know it is considered extra good luck to have January 1 as your birthday? Many Asian traditions say that babies born on New Years are very lucky in life, and so are their families.

Other intriguing New Years Traditions and Superstitions:

  • Open all of the doors to your house at midnight to let the old year escape and welcome in the New Year.
  • Sleep with a lucky horseshoe under your pillow on New Year’s Eve.
  • The Dutch eat doughnuts on New Years to symbolize the full circle of the year.
  • In Venezuela, people walk around the house with a suitcase full of money to encourage a year of wealth and adventures.
  • People in Greece bake a coin into a cake.  Whoever finds it will have good luck for the year.
  • In Italy, people toss old items out of their windows to make room for new good luck.
  • Spanish people often eat 12 grapes on the New Year to symbolize 12 months of sweetness.

We wish you a happy and fortunate New Year!

5 Rules for Cleaning out Toys

box with toysThe holiday season is a great time to clean out old toys and organize your play spaces.  Not only do you have a little extra time on your hands, you can feel good about donating items to others who can enjoy them as much as your kids did.  Cleaning out the toys may fee like a daunting task as your playroom continuously explodes with more and more stuff.   Seriously, where does it all come from, right?  Today we’re sharing some basic rules for cleaning out toys to reclaim your kids play spaces (if only for a few months until it needs to be done again).

Rule #1:  Clean when the kids aren’t around. 

Not only will the watchful eyes of your kids be distracting to you, but they will want to hold on to everything.  You need to work from an objective viewpoint so don’t let your kids’ presence influence your decision making.

Rule #2:  Be extremely discerning. 

Don’t clean out toys when you are feeling sentimental.  Toy clean-out day should be a cut-throat activity.  Here are some basic tips about which toys to eliminate.  Chuck it if…

  • Your kids haven’t played with it in over 6 months
  • It is broken beyond the point of repair
  • It is dangerous (chipping paint, exposed sharp edges, etc…)
  • It is no longer age appropriate for your children
  • Chachkis such as cheap birthday party favors and carnival prizes (trust us, you’ll get more soon!)
  • It makes so much of a mess you ban its use anyways

Rule #3:  Make piles and get rid of them as soon as possible.

Categorize toys you plan to discard them in three ways:  toys you are throwing away, toys you are donating and toys you are saving for a younger child.  For the toys you plan to save, pack them up and label the box so they are easy to find when you need them.  For toy donations, take them immediately to their point of destination, whether that is Goodwill, a local toy drive or to a friend’s house with younger kids.  And of course toss the ones you are throwing out.  Be sure not to let your kids see them as they may try to salvage their long-lost “favorite” toy they haven’t played with in years.

Rule #4:  Re-organize play spaces and explain the new layout to your kids.

Moving things around a bit can offer a fresh new look to your playroom, and may even re-energize the way your kids play in it.  Try not to buy new storage containers but rather use what you have in creative ways.  Designate areas for certain types of toys to help your children keep their own play space organized and know where to return toys when they are done with them.  If you feel inclined, you can label toy bins.  Otherwise simply explain your system and challenge your kids to keep their playroom tidy.

Rule #5:  Be strict about keeping your play spaces uncluttered. 

If your kids are old enough to understand cleaning up, set rules about how their play spaces should be maintained.  This may include always cleaning up after playtime and never leaving toys lying around the house.  Come up with consequences for not following the rules such as losing the toy for a set amount of time, or throwing out random papers and crafts they leave in the wrong place.  It may feel harsh but your kids will soon learn how to take care of their playroom if you enforce the rules.  For younger kids, help them clean and evolve to more stringent rules over time.

Employ these rules for cleaning out toys for a less cluttered and happier play space.  Good luck!

Things to do on Christmas Eve

Kids reading a book on Christmas eve at fireplaceWith all the anticipation of Christmas, sometimes Christmas Eve gets a bum rap.  But Christmas Eve can be an exciting day filled with lots of fun family activities.  Whether you’re spending time with extended family or just your immediates, make the most of the day before Christmas with these ideas of things to do on Christmas Eve:’

Bake Cookies:  Baking is an activity that everyone in the family can enjoy.  Kids of all ages love participating in pour, stirring and decorating scrumptious cookies.  Make a few batches to accommodate everyone’s favorite flavors and have plenty of neat cut cutters and cookie decorating supplies on hand.  If you have enough extras, take some to neighbors or local police or fire stations to share with those who have to work on Christmas.

Drive around to see Christmas Lights:  What’s better than decking your house in holiday lights?  Seeing someone else’s beamingly bright house!  Some neighborhoods are known for their beautiful Christmas lights.  Do your research and take a car trip to visit some of the brighter neighborhoods in your area.

Sing Christmas Carols:  Christmas carols – or any songs for that matter – really gets everyone in the holiday spirit.  Singing as a family creates unity and is good for the soul.  You can do it from the comfort of your living room or go door-to-door in your neighborhood singing for other nearby families.  It may seem like an old tradition but it’s one that that still warms hearts of every generation.

Give one Homemade Gift:  In the spirit of giving and sharing, take the commercialization out of Christmas for at least one day.  Challenge everyone in your household to make one gift for each family member.  Share your homemade gifts on Christmas Eve.  We bet they’ll be among your favorite presents of the entire holiday.

Watch a Christmas Movie:  With the many movie choices available these days, your kids may not have seen some Christmas classics.  Pick one that is age-appropriate for your crew and cuddle up for a viewing party.  Sharing Christmas movies that you love with your kids can be a wonderful tradition that brings you back to your own youth.

Play Family Games:  Break free of your regular playtime activities and take advantage of the whole family being home by playing games together.  Board games are always a good choice but if your kiddos aren’t able to follow them yet, try simpler games like Simon Says, Follow the Leader or Charades.  You can also make up your own games such as obstacle courses, repeating rhythms or tickle monster.

Eat Chinese Food or Waffle House:  Not many restaurants are open on Christmas Eve but Waffle House is and often Chinese eateries are.  Take a break from cooking and let someone else do the serving on Christmas Eve.  Besides, doesn’t a waffle w/smothered & covered potatoes or a bowl of egg drop soup sound great for Christmas Eve?

Cozy up by a Fire with S’mores and Hot Cocoa:  Whether you live in sunny Florida or chilly North Dakota, a fire is always appropriate on Christmas Eve.  Gather the family and enjoy some cozy time by the fire.  Complete the experience with s’mores and hot cocoa as a special holiday treat.

We wish you a very happy Christmas Eve!!

 

Free Family Activities: Beat the Weekend and Winter Vacation Doldrums

Family on summer hike. Young parents with kids hiking next to a lake. Mother, father and two children having picnic outdoors. Active trekking with baby and toddler. Beautiful nature of Germany.

Weekends and vacations are often packed with tons of activities and family obligations.  But sometimes when there are no plans, families get lost in what to do next.  While there are probably many fun activities you can think of – going to a movie, bowling, visiting an indoor playground to name a few – they can be quite pricey when you take the entire family.  That’s why we’ve come up with free family activities you can check out over the weekend or winter vacation to keep everyone happy and occupied.

Go to a new park or nature center that is not close to your house.  There is no better time to explore new areas than the weekend.  Venture away from the parks you visit weekly and find a new and exciting play space, even if it takes a little time to get there.

Visit a fire station.  Fire stations are open every day of the year and most welcome visitors of all ages.  Learn about the exciting role of firefighters and important fire safety tips all at the same time.  If you can, bring along homemade goodies to share as a thank you to local heroes.

Play with animals at a shelter or pet store.  If you don’t have your own pet, adopt one for half an hour at a pet store or local shelter.  These animals love affection and it’s a wonderful family activity for kids of all ages.

Make art out of nature.  Collect leaves, acorns, sticks and other items in nature and use them to make fun art projects. Nature offers many creative supplies and is often the best canvas.

Put on a family play.  Let your kids be the directors and follow their lead as you perform a tale that they spin themselves.  Who cares if it doesn’t make sense to anyone but them.  It will be a fun experience and chance to get their thespian juices flowing.

Invite neighbors over for a game of baseball.  Your neighbors may be feeling a bit bored and lost too.  Find out who’s around and invite them over for a friendly game of baseball or any other sport you all enjoy.

Play board games.  Board games often collect dust on your playroom shelves when you’re busy with other activities.  Pull them out for a family game night.  Teach your little ones how to play new games they’ve never seen before by letting them be on someone else’s team.

Watch workers at a construction site.  What could be more entertaining than construction workers digging, drilling, dumping and banging at a construction site?  This thrilling experience offers plenty of opportunity to identify trucks, tools and building methods for the construction buff in everyone.

Play dress up.  Pull out some old clothes, shoes and accessories and let your kids feast on dressing up.  Do take lots of pictures because there are sure to be some hilarious moments.

Camp out indoors.  Build a fort or put up a tent and have an indoor camp out for the entire family.  Be sure to bring your flash lights and ghost stories.  If you have the supplies, s’mores make an excellent finishing touch.

Learn a few magic tricks.  Using your savvy internet research skills, pull a few magic tricks out of your computer.  Your kids will be amazed and you can teach them how to perform the tricks for their friends.

Go to the library.  Reading is free, educational and fun!  Let your kids pick out the books they want to read and spend some time at the library reading together.  Some libraries offer free story times or children’s classes, but they are not always available on weekends or during vacations.

Volunteer.  Spend time as a family doing something meaningful for your community and those around you.  Volunteer to plant a garden, clean up a riverbank or serve food at a shelter.  These moments help everyone appreciate the gifts in their lives even more.

Doctors Hope to Soon Perform the First Uterus Transplant in the U.S.

happy familyMany women don’t really think about their uterus until they are ready to have children.  In fact, most women probably take their uterus for granted, but for many women who were born without one or who had them removed due to medical issues, a uterus would be a treasured organ.  A groundbreaking surgery may soon be available to offer these women a chance at giving birth with a uterus transplant.  And for some, carrying a child is worth a complicated non-life-saving medical procedure.

According to a recent story in the New York Times, doctors at the Cleveland Clinic hope to be the first to perform a uterus transplant in the U.S.  They are currently practicing the procedure and vetting potential transplant recipients.  This procedure has been performed nine times in Sweden, resulting in 4 healthy births with one more expected in January.  Several patients have not yet conceived and two had to have their transplant removed due to medical concerns.  Two other countries have performed the procedure without success.

For the procedures in the U.S., the donor uterus will come from a deceased woman who is a match for the healthy recipient, which differs from the live donors that were used in Sweden.  The donor’s uterus, cervix, part of her vagina and uterine blood vessels will be removed and transplanted into the recipient.  These reproductive parts will not be linked to the recipient’s fallopian tubes and therefore she cannot release an egg naturally to produce a baby.  Rather, she will wait a year after the trasnplant and then have in vitro fertilization in hopes of becoming pregnant.

Like other transplant recipients, women who undergo a uterus transplant will take anti-rejection drugs while the uterus is in their bodies.  However, this transplant is only temporary.  After the woman has had one or two babies, the uterus will be removed and she will stop taking the drugs.  During pregnancy she will have to continue to take the anti-rejection medication, which doctors say is not necessarily detrimental to a baby’s health.  Women who have undergone other organ transplants have healthy babies on anti-rejection medication on a regular basis.  Babies born to mothers with a uterus transplant do tend to be born premature and small and mothers are considered high risk with an increased likelihood of preeclampsia.  The reason for these complications is unknown and could be attributed to the drugs or the foreign uterus itself.  The babies will be delivered via c-section in hopes to avoid any complications during childbirth.

Unlike heart, liver, kidney and lung transplants, a uterus transplant is not a life-saving measure.  This raises ethical questions for some, however the Cleveland Clinic and others around the world believe that modern medicine should not only save lives, but also improve lives.  For women who want nothing more than to carry their own baby, this would be the opportunity of a lifetime.

The team at Cleveland Clinic is studying under the Swedish doctors who originally performed the transplants in order to perfect the procedure.  They will proceed if they feel it is completely safe for their patients.  Other hospitals are also working towards the goal of offering uterus transplants but none are as close to their first operation as Cleveland Clinic.

This is exciting stuff in two of the most innovative areas of medicine, reproduction and transplant.  It could significantly change the lives of thousands of women in the U.S. who don’t have a uterus, giving them hope to one day carry and deliver their own babies.

Best Teacher Gifts for the Holidays

human hands holding a gift

Those who take care of our children – whether it’s at a daycare, in our homes or at school – should be like family.  They are responsible for the most precious part of our lives for many hours a day so we should celebrate them for all the ways they enrich our children.  But what to get them as a holiday gift is always a conundrum.  Candles, lotions and sweets are common, but the truth is that most teachers end up giving or throwing away many of these presents.  Want to give your kids’ teachers and caregivers something special this year?  Today we’re sharing ideas for the best teacher gifts for the holidays.

Plants:  Even if your teacher doesn’t have a green thumb, a beautiful plant will brighten up her holiday.  There are many ways you can give plants as a gift.  A straight-up plant in a nice pot is a lovely present with no wrapping necessary.  You can also give her bulbs or “seed bombs” that she can plant herself and watch grow.  If you have a teacher who enjoys cooking, a kitchen herb garden set will be useful and delicious for her culinary creations.

Personalized Note Pads or Stationary:  This custom present is useful year-after-year and fulfills a need that all teachers have – sending notes home and around school.  Many companies offer a set of note pads of various sizes including sticky notes that teachers love.  Or, personalized stationary comes in very handy, say for writing thank you notes for all of the holiday gifts she will receive.

Foot Spa:  For teachers and caregivers who are constantly on their feet, a foot spa is a terrific way to offer much-needed relief.  These electronic tubs help warm, soak and massage even the sorest feet after a long day of chasing around children.  It’s like having a foot masseuse in her very own home.  What could be better?

Coffee:  If your teacher or caregiver is a java-holic, indulge her in a few pick-me-ups on you.  This can come in the form of packages of her favorite brew, coffee pods for her single-serve coffee maker, delicious flavorings or creamers for her cuppa joe, or a self-warming travel mug to bring her coffee along every day.  For coffee-lovers, anything related to coffee makes a great holiday gift.

Scarf & Glove Set:  By this time of year you’ve probably picked up on your teacher or caregivers sense of style.  Scarves and gloves sets are a wonderful teacher gift for the holidays to keep her warm and fashionable.  Do be thoughtful and select something that matches her individual taste and color pallet.  You may want to include a gift receipt in case she’d like to exchange them.

First Aid Kit:  While this doesn’t scream “festive” or “fun,” it is a very useful gift for the classroom.  Many schools don’t provide individual first aid kits for every classroom, but rather have them stationed in break rooms or in the nurse’s office.  Having band-aids and other supplies on hand is helpful and less disruptive than having to leave the classroom to get items as needed.

Personalized Cutting Board:  Chef or not, a personalized cutting board is a wonderful serving piece for any teacher or caregiver’s home.  Hand-carved wooden cutting boards with an interesting design or monogram can be quite beautiful and certainly a unique idea as a holiday gift.

Wine:  If you know your teacher is a wine-drinker, selecting a bottle or two of a nice wine for her to sip over the holiday season is both thoughtful and relaxing.  You can subtly ask her or other teachers what types of wine she enjoys.  For a fun spin on a traditional wine bottle, add a personal label with your child’s photo.

Gift Cards:  When all other ideas don’t resonate, you can’t go wrong with gift cards.  A larger sum at a store you know she’ll enjoy is great or you can give a gift card bouquet of smaller sums from several places.  Ideas include grocery stores, home improvement stores, superstores, movie theaters, restaurants, coffee shops and nail salons.  Have fun creating a smorgasbord of gift cards for your special teacher or caregiver.

Make this year’s teachers gifts for the holidays really mean something with these fun and fabulous ideas!

8 Adorable Holiday Handprint Crafts

Handprint crafts are an excellent way to freeze a moment in time and commemorate the holiday season.  As your little ones grow, you’ll love looking back at many holiday crafts, but not many are as precious as those that are made with their own tiny handprints.  Holiday handprint crafts add cheer, spirit and vibrancy to your holiday home décor and make excellent gifts for your loved ones.  We’re sharing 8 adorable holiday handprint crafts to try with your kids this year.

1 – Handprint Family Tree:  This cross-cultural artwork is a wonderful keepsake or a terrific gift for grandparents.  Start with a piece of 8 x 10 white card stock.  Draw a tree trunk extending halfway up the page from the bottom.  Paint your children’s hands and print them on top of the trunk in various directions to be the branches and leaves of the tree.  If you have multiple children, use one of each of their hands, or repaint one child’s hands several colors to complete the tree.  This can easily be matted and framed for a gorgeous and one-of-a-kind holiday gift.

2 – Ceramic Handprint Ornament:  This craft is often available as a kit or you can do-it-yourself by using molding clay that dries hard.  Make the ornament shape you prefer – oval, square, star or whatever floats your boat – and then press your child’s hand into it.  You can paint the hand or leave it natural.  Etch your child’s name and the date as a memorable decoration you can use on your tree or around your house year after year.

3 – Handprint Snowmen:  One tiny hand can make 5 adorable snowmen.  Dip your child’s hand in white paint and print it on a piece of paper.  Then have fun decorating the snowmen fingers, each with its own personality.  A traditional scarf, top hat and carrot nose for some, a baseball cap and uniform for another.  Let your child’s handprint snowmen represent the interests of your family.

4 – Handprint Christmas Tree:  There are several ways to complete this holiday handprint craft depending on the size tree you want to make.  One way is to draw a short brown pine tree truck and then stamp your child’s green handprint upside down starting with 3 or 4 in a row at the bottom and gradually taper to one at the top.  You can do this with upright handprints for larger trees.  Similarly, you can cut out handprints to create a three dimensional tree in which you can fold up the fingers for a textured tree.  Have fun decorating your tree with colorful craft supplies and a star or angel at the top, of course.

5 – Handprint Menorah:  This adorable holiday handprint craft is fun and easy to complete.  Dip both of your child’s hands in blue paint and print them on a piece of paper,

Girl at school finger painting

canvas, cloth or card stock overlapping the thumbs.  This will create four finger candles on each side and the leader shamesh candle in the middle.  Wipe hands clean and paint fingertips yellow to “light” each of the 9 candles on the menorah.

6 – Handprint Wreath:  A paper holiday handprint wreath is beautiful for decorating interior doors and mantels.  Simply trace your child’s handprint and cut out as many as you want to create a round wreath.  Glue them together in a circle leaving a hole in the middle.  You can add colorful cotton balls, bows or other decorative items to jazz up your keepsake wreath.

7 – Handprint Angel:  This sweet holiday handprint craft can incorporate your child’s photo as the face of the angel.  Beneath the photo, stamp your child’s hand upside down as the angel’s body.  Then using white, yellow or blue paint, stamp handprint wings on both sides of the body.  This is a fun one to cut out and use as an ornament as well.

8 – Handprint Reindeer:  Little fingers make for good antlers so handprint reindeer are a fun and crafty way to celebrate the season.  Using brown paint, print a handprint on a piece of paper.  Draw a face on the palm and bows or holly on the antler fingers.  You can create one or an entire sled-full.

We hope you and your kiddos have a blast creating these adorable holiday handprint crafts.  Remember, even babies can participate in handprint crafts so use this special time of year to make lasting keepsakes you’ll revisit year after year!

Labor Pain Management Techniques

When you start to feel those first contractions, you know you’re little bundle of joy is not far from her arrival.  Usually, labor begins slowly with some twinges of contractions spaced sporadically.  As time progresses, so does the severity of contractions.  That’s when it’s time to get into gear and employ your labor pain management techniques.  It’s a good idea to have researched and selected some of the techniques you want to use prior to going into labor so you are prepared with the methods and tools you may need.  Today we’re exploring a variety of labor pain management techniques as options during the birth of your child.

First, it’s important to prepare yourself for comfort and familiarity as much as possible.  This may mean staying in your own home until active labor begins and then going to the hospital or birthing center, which hopefully you’ve had a chance to tour during your pregnancy.  Have your birthing team in place and on call so they are ready to activate when the time arises.  Usually partners, friends or a doula can offer the most help, and others can take over childcare duties for older siblings, your work responsibilities and other obligations that will now take the back burner.  Also, you’ll want to draw on your knowledge of labor to help guide you through the process.  Don’t go into it completely ignorant – that can lead to panic and fear.  Rather, read up on signs of labor and typical procedures so you feel assured everything that is happening to you is completely normal.

Rhythmic Breathing:  Deep breathing is one of the easiest ways to try to relax your body.  During labor, breathing through contractions can really help.  This is why Lamaze and other similar practices used to be very popular.  If you’re not into taking a class, you can practice controlled breathing during pregnancy so you’ll be able to draw on it when active labor sets in.  This is the same type of breathing you may do in exercise or yoga.  Even if you can’t take long slow breaths, focusing on short consistent breaths will do the trick.  Feel free to moan, groan or make any other noises that will help you cope with the pain.

Positioning:  Using a variety of positions is another terrific labor pain management technique.  The goal is to take pressure off your back so sitting leaning back on a pillow or sitting backwards on a chair leaning forward on a pillow can assisting in relieving the pain.  Rocking also helps, which you can do in a traditional rocking chair, standing up or on an exercise ball.  Getting on your hands and knees takes pressure off the back or, like during pregnancy, lying on your side with pillows between your legs may ease your labor pain.  If you need these supplies in the hospital, ask your labor and delivery nurse what is available.  Chances are they have some helpful tools on hand.

Movement:  Many women find it helpful to keep moving during active labor.  Walking, standing or shifting side-to-side are the most common movements.  Some women squat holding onto a bar.  Movement labor pain management techniques are best done with the help of your birthing team and may allow your partner to be involved in the process.

Massage:  Another wonderful way your partner can help is to give you a gentle massage.  You may want your feet, legs or shoulders rubbed as you breathe through the pain.  Let your masseuse know the type of pressure you prefer and lotion or aromatic oils may help soothe and calm your muscles and all of your senses.

Warmth:  Warm water or warm compresses can relieve labor pain.  Some women choose to take a warm bath or shower with the supervision of a partner, nurse or doula.  Soaking is believed to speed up labor.  You can also use a removable shower head to target your abdomen and back where you need the most relief.  Warm compresses have a similar effect of focusing on certain areas where pain in concentrated.  If you get too hot, allow your partner to cool you down with a cold wet towel or ice pack.

Medication:  In most cases, medication is an option.  You may want to try natural labor pain management techniques before asking for an epidural.  But if the pain is unbearable for you, medication is usually an option.

Good luck using these labor pain management techniques!  Remember, it’s called labor for a reason, but the end result is your beautiful, wonderful baby.

Are you Ready for a Second Child?

Young family four persons, smiling father mother and two childreDeciding whether or not you are ready for a second child is a big decision.  A REALLY big decision.  Regardless of how you’ve pictured and planned your life, when it comes time to make it happen, there are some major factors to consider before you know you are ready for a second child.  Among them are how it will affect your health, time, finances and existing family dynamic.  We’re exploring each of these aspects of being ready for a second child today.

Health

Even if you have children close together, by the time you consider having a second child, you are a little older and your body has been through at least one pregnancy already.  Each pregnancy is different so even if your first was easy, your second could be laden with negative symptoms or even bed rest.  Think about your personal health and whether or not you can handle carrying another baby.  When you are mulling over the possibility of another child, consult your physician for a medical opinion.

Also, consider the research regarding the age gap between your children and how it may impact your health and that of your baby.  A second baby born within 18 months of a first or beyond five years of the first is more likely to be premature than those who wait longer.  The healthiest period between babies is two to three years, which gives your body time to readjust and your baby will probably have the best outcome too.

Time and Lifestyle

Once you figure out how to juggle your life with one child, you’ll have to think about how a second child will impact your time and lifestyle.  If you have returned to work, you may feel even more torn between work and family with a new baby at home.  You may be enjoying hobbies again or spending more time with your partner, which will probably have to take a back seat when you are managing the constant care of an infant.  And don’t forget the sleep deprivation too.  Weigh these lifestyle factors with the joy and fulfillment you would get from having a second child.  If you choose not to take the plunge, don’t feel selfish.  It’s better to have truly thought through your desires than to jump in blindly.

Finances

As you already know, having children can be expensive.  You and your partner must consider how a second will affect your bank account.  Hopefully you can reuse many of your baby items and you know more about which ones are important or not.  But some items will need to be purchased or replaced and there is the cost of childcare too.  Also, think through the space you have in your home and the cars you drive.  If having a second child will cause you to need to move or get new vehicles, those are major extra expenses.

Family Dynamics

The intricacies of every family are different and only you and your partner know whether a new baby can fit into yours.  Besides thinking about everyone’s personalities and emotional needs, also consider your values.  If you are a traveling family or always on-the-go, a new baby may slow you down a bit or could just make your adventures more interesting.  It all depends on how you look at it.

Studies show the ideal times for having a second child based on family dynamics are either before your first is 1 and can really understand what’s happening, or around 4 years after the first when your older child can fully grasp the concept of a sibling but also has his own life established.  Remember, just like pregnancies, every baby and child is unique.  Your first may have been an easy baby and a calm, obedient child but the opposite might be true of your second.  Don’t count on anything working out the same when you are considering how a new baby will change your family dynamics.

We hope these factors help you as you decide whether you are ready for a second child.  There are also many fun quizzes you can take online that may bring up some questions and topics you had not considered.  Take one with your partner as a basis for the second child discussion.  Good luck!

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