Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

Left Handed Children: Do you have a lefty?

lefty children__1453481992_108.89.137.58If you are a right-handed person, you probably don’t think twice about how you write, cook, or perform regular hand functions.  When you are a leftie, it takes a bit more work and concentration.  Humans have evolved as a right-handed dominant species.  Even ancient fossils show that our early ancestors were predominantly right handed.  And thus the world tailors to righties.  Everything from kitchen utensils, pens and most school desks, to pant zippers, faucets and instruments are designed for right-handed people.  Today we’re looking at qualities of left handed children and how you can help them grow and thrive using their dominant hand.

Left-handed people make up around 10% of the population.  About one percent of people are truly ambidextrous and the rest are right-handed.  Lefties are twice as likely to be boys as girls and mothers who have their babies over 40 are highly more likely to have left-handed babies.  Babies may show their first signs of left-handedness when they turn their heads a certain direction in response to sound, sights or vibrations.  However, children usually don’t show their true dominance until they are school age.  Until recently, left-handedness was highly discouraged because it seemed abnormal and more difficult.  In some ways that assessment is not wrong, however now psychology tells us not to try to change a person’s predilections of this nature.

The Advantages of Being Left-Handed

Left-handed people are believed to be better at math and architecture, more creative, and tend to pursue creative careers.  Studies show that left-handed college graduates tend to make more money than right-handed counterparts.  In fact, their success is proven in the U.S. government as four of the last seven presidents have been left-handed men.  Lefties tend to be better at multi-tasking and have to become better independent problem-solvers to account for everyday modifications in a right-handed world.  Also, left-handed people are better at certain upper-body and face-to-face sports such as baseball, tennis, golf, boxing and swimming.  This is because they can often surprise their opponents who have less practice against left-handed players.

The Disadvantages of Being Left-Handed

Besides having to adapt to a right-handed world, lefties tend to have certain characteristics that may cause health problems.  As a whole they are more prone to bipoloar disorder and schizophrenia, alcoholism and anger management issues.  They are shy and more likely to scare easily.  Because lefties favor the right hemisphere of the brain rather than the left where language and fine motor skills are controlled, left-handers have more incidences of speech impediments, stuttering and dyslexia, and consider themselves more clumsy.  Those with a left-hand dominance also show increased risk of migraine headaches, insomnia, allergies, asthma and ADHD.

Tips for Parents of Left-Handed Children

The first step in parenting a well-adjusted left-handed child is recognizing the challenges she faces and understanding that her brain works differently.  Often her brain is more flexible because the two hemispheres are constantly having to communicate with one another to make accommodations.  Support your child as much as possible and even verbalize times when you see it is frustrating for her to do something meant for a right-handed person.

Buy supplies that suit your left-handed child and set up spaces that are appropriate for their hand dominance.  This may mean re-orienting a room to match her spatial needs.  Also, buy left-handed scissors, instruments, baseball gloves and whatever else your child may need to pursue their interests.  Don’t let her handedness stand in the way of being successful. Also, research how to teach your child proper sports stances for lefties.  It may be confusing to you because, for instance, what looks like a forehand, is their backhand, and vice versa.

Writing can be especially difficult for lefties. Let them do what comes naturally, even if that is not the traditional way.  As long as writing it legible, it should be fine.  Invest in left-handed pencil grips, triangle shaped pencils and crayons and a great sharpener.  (Sharper writing utensils are easier for left-handed children to use.)

Lastly, give your child lots of praise for the ways in which she is unique.  When left-handedness is at her advantage, point it out to her so she can feel proud.  Help your leftie embrace what is wonderful about her traits.  You can also share the many successful people throughout history who have thrived as left-handers.

Organizations that Support Mothers

mother and sonWe each have our own adventures and challenges with motherhood.  For those moms who are less fortunate and lack resources and support to feed, clothe, educate and provide care for their children, the challenges can be vast.  Fortunately, there are many organizations that support mothers and help provide basic needs to families in critical situations.  Additionally, many organizations that support mothers aim to improve the lives of women to help them rise about barriers to their success and independence.  Here’s a look at some of the top organizations that support mothers and the great work they are doing to advance women:

Feeding America:  This leading hunger-relief organization provides food through food banks and meal services, especially for children.  Their goal is to eradicate hunger in the U.S. by promoting self-reliance.  This national organization has many local food banks where families can get healthy and nutritious food to nourish themselves for a brighter future.  You can volunteer with Feeding America by bagging groceries or serving meals at a local food bank or shelter.

Help a Mother Out:  Diapers are an essential supply for all infants.  When babies sit in soiled diapers, it can lead to health complications for the baby and sometimes spread to the entire family.  Help a Mother Out is an organization that supplies diapers to families who cannot afford them.  Based in California, this group raises funds and takes donations to distribute a healthy stock of diapers for poverty-stricken families.

Global Fund for Women:  With women’s rights at the forefront, Global Fund for Women is an international advocacy group aimed at social justice, equality and the rights of women, especially single mothers.  It matches donors with those seeking grants for women’s rights programs in groups around the world.

Every Mother Counts:  Founded by mother, model and activist Christy Turlington Burns, this organization works to provide vital medical care for childbirth to prevent maternal deaths.  Every Mother Counts operates in many countries and helps give at risk women crucial information about childbirth safety, access to trained medical professionals and transportation to reach facilities that can care for them before and during childbirth.

Mom-Mentum:  This non-profit aims to improve the personal and professional lives of women through support training, professional development and public policy advocacy.  They support an Annual Women’s Leadership Conference and many employee relations initiatives that promote flexibility for working moms to find success in their career and family lives.

Futures without Violence:  Futures without Violence is a support and advocacy group to fight against domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.  They are influential in legislative changes regarding violence and supporting families to end violence in homes and communities.  Their message focuses on respect and positive, healthy relationships as a means to end violence.

MomsRising:  Another mother’s and women’s rights advocacy group, MomsRising works at a grassroots level to affect legislative policy and corporate change.  Their issues include parental leave policies, fair wages for all, toxin-free work environments and flexible work schedules for parents.

As mothers, we can all invoke changes in some way.  Get inspired by these organizations that help women and find your own way to improve the lives of mothers in your community.

How to Avoid Raising Entitled Children

Sassy girl with crossed arms and a disgusted lookAs parents, we have the unique responsibility and great challenge of helping our kids reach their full potential as successful, productive and well-balanced adults.  That’s quite a mighty task, and one that should start in early childhood.  Life lessons as young children are ingrained in our sense of self and carried throughout our lives.  Although kids are inherently “me” centric, there are certain strategies to avoid raising entitled kids.  Here are a few you can employ in your household:

Enforce Rules and Set Boundaries

Many common behavioral problems in children stem from a lack of rules and boundaries in their lives.  While we often hear that “rules are meant to be broken,” when it comes to kids, they need the stability of knowing they should not break rules and when they do, there are consequences.  Children will naturally test the boundaries, which is when it is important for parents to stand their ground.  This means saying “no” often.  It may make you uncomfortable and your child sad.  But parents are not supposed to be their children’s best friends.  If you give in to every request or exception to your own rules, you are teaching your child that rules really are bendable and they can manipulate the system in their favor.  That’s not true in life and should not be true in your relationship with your child.  That’s not to say treats and rewards aren’t warranted, but they should be earned and doled out on special occasions.

Teach Responsibility Early

Showing your kids the value of hard work and team work is a critical part to avoid raising entitled children.  This means that everyone in the home should have responsibilities.  Some call them “chores,” others call them “family contributions.”  Whatever tag you give them, do assign them starting in toddlerhood.  Young children should learn to play their part in familial responsibilities – no free loaders on board.  Increase responsibilities to an age-appropriate level as your children grow older.  If you set high expectations, your kids will likely want to meet them and often exceed them. This sense of hard work and team work will remain with them as they enter the workforce, new relationships and other meaningful activities in their lives.

Don’t Fix Their Problems

As new parents, you are responsible for every aspect of your baby’s life.  You really do have to fix all of their problems.  However, as they become more cognizant of the world around them, it’s time to teach some independence and stop coddling them.  This is a hard lesson for many who follow attachment parenting.  But allowing your kids space to figure things out for themselves will teach them great problem-solving skills for the future.  There will be many scary and challenging situations they must face in their lives.  Practice facing them early by encouraging kids to speak to peers, teachers and others about issues directly, rather than through you.  This form of peaceful resolution can give them great pride and empower them to continue to stand up for themselves with confidence.

Avoid Over-Indulgence

In a world of instant gratification, it’s easy to spoil your children.  This goes for tangible items like toys and video games, and other things like sweets and television time.  Develop a reward system that allows your kids to work towards goals and special rewards.  Life doesn’t owe them anything but working to achieve a desired result is possible.  Be especially aware of how much money you give your kids.  You should not be an open bank, but rather encourage your kids to understand the value of money, saving and how much life costs.  Be strict about allowance when your child is old enough to understand it.  Also, help them save up for something they may really want.

Practice Gratitude

Kids that realize the world is so much bigger than their bubble tend to be less entitled.  Practicing gratitude by pointing out all you have to be thankful for in your lives is a great step in the right direction.  Also, take time for random acts of kindness and give back when possible.  Children who appreciate what they have and learn to help those around them will find more happiness, less stress and maintain a healthier outlook on life.

PMS during Pregnancy: Do you have Pregnancy PMS?

Symptoms of PMS and symptoms of pregnancy are often confused, and sometimes they are not mutually exclusive.  Many symptoms of PMS and pregnancy are the same, which is why some women do not realize they are pregnant until several weeks (or even months) into their pregnancy.  However, sometimes cyclical PMS symptoms still occur during pregnancy, even when periods have subsided.  We’re looking at symptoms of both PMS and pregnancy and why some women experience Pregnancy PMS.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) usually occurs around 7 days before and a few days into a woman’s monthly period.  Up to 90% of women experience some level of PMS symptoms prior to their period.  Cramping, bloating, spotting, sore breasts, irritability, moodiness, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, back pain and change in appetite are all symptoms of PMS.  But guess what?  They are also symptoms of pregnancy.  This is why many women believe they are getting their periods when these may be early signs of pregnancy.  Women who are newly pregnant and are due for their next cycle may have all of their typical PMS symptoms even though they are positively pregnant.

One large clue of whether symptoms are PMS or pregnancy is if they occur outside of the normal premenstrual timeframe.  Also, pregnancy symptoms include nausea and vomiting, skipped periods, and more severe food cravings or aversions.  Usually these are tell tale signs that your symptoms mean you are pregnant, not PMSing.  Also, extreme cramping and spotting are not healthy signs of pregnancy so if you suspect you are pregnant, you should see your doctor right away if those symptoms occur.

pregnant woman with a headache and pain

Experts believe PMS occurs for several reasons.  First, hormones are fluctuating significantly in preparation for your period, which can lead to many unwanted symptoms.  Also, chemicals are shifting in the brain, especially serotonin, which is in part responsible for feelings of happiness and joy.  These changes certainly occur during pregnancy too, especially in early pregnancy, which again leaves some women unsure whether or not they are pregnant.  However, many women feel they have pregnancy PMS, which is when their typical PMS symptoms occur on a monthly basis even when they are positive they are pregnant.

There is no solid evidence that PMS occurs regularly during pregnancy but since typical symptoms of pregnancy and PMS overlap and hormones and brain chemicals are constantly shifting during pregnancy, pregnancy PMS is certainly possible.  To ensure a healthy pregnancy and to manage symptoms of PMS versus pregnancy, it is important to know the levels of severity of symptoms normal for each condition.  Many women treat symptoms of PMS with medication, which is usually not advised during pregnancy.  Also, other recommended lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise may differ for those suffering from PMS versus women who experience pregnancy symptoms.

Even informed women have questions about their menstrual cycles, PMS and pregnancy symptoms.  If in doubt, consult you physician to ensure you are handling your symptoms appropriately for your condition.

Postpartum Depression in Dads

Many people are unaware of a very real type of depression that occurs after a new baby is born into a family.  We’re not talking about postpartum depression that affects mothers after childbirth.  It’s postpartum depression in dads, known as paternal postpartum depression (PPPD) or paternal postnatal depression (PPND).  This type of depression occurs due to a combination of biological and emotional changes taking place in new dads, and can be just as serious as the postpartum depression that new moms experience.

Who is affected by paternal postpartum depression?

Postpartum depression is something that is often discussed by healthcare providers and the media alike.  It is triggered by the severe change in hormones new moms experience during pregnancy and immediately following childbirth, coupled with many emotional and lifestyle transformations that occur when a new baby arrives.  Men suffer from paternal dads and postpartum__1453339789_108.89.137.58postpartum depression for many of the same reasons but it is less publicized.  Perhaps the silence is due to men’s societal role as strong, tough and unaffected by emotions.  But as anyone who has experienced emotional or mental illness can attest, keeping it inside is the worst way to handle the problem.

Paternal postpartum depression can begin during pregnancy and extend for years after becoming a father.  A report from the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that 10% of new dads experience this type of depression between early pregnancy and the first six months with their baby.  But 26% of men experience depression between three and six months, which is double the typical rate in men.  Paternal postpartum depression is twice as likely to occur in men whose wives have postpartum depression and is more likely in men who are predisposed to general depression.  Unfortunately many cases of postpartum depression in dads go unreported because men are not forthcoming with their condition.

Why does postpartum depression in dads occur?

Surprisingly, men have hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy and after childbirth as well.  No, they are not physically growing a baby inside their bodies, but they are very much part of the emotional experience of having a baby.  Studies show that testosterone lowers and estrogen increases in fathers after the birth of their baby.  Along with these hormone shifts, some fathers develop fears and anxieties over caring for a newborn, especially when the baby is extremely fussy, their marriage is suffering and no one in the household is getting enough sleep.

Dads find themselves asking these questions:  Am I adequate at meeting the immediate needs of my baby?  Why is my baby crying when I’m doing everything I know to do?  Will my life ever be normal again?  Why do I feel so out of control?  Will I ever get to practice my hobbies and see my friends again?  Will my wife love me the same now that she has this new baby in her life?  Can I support my growing family?  Why does this come so easy for my wife and not for me?  Sometimes (and for some, for the first time in their lives) men feel incompetent in their newfound role as a father and the stress overwhelms them to the point of depression.

How to handle postpartum depression in dads?

Doctors and other medical caregivers talk about postpartum depression with new moms but dads are often overlooked.  When dads show signs of paternal postpartum depression, including personality shifts, over-indulgence in vices, panic attacks, becoming a work-a-holic, and loss of interest in previous activities he enjoyed, it’s time to take action.  The best coping strategies include getting help from a professional, whether it is a primary care physician, therapist or someone else with experience in postpartum depression, as well as talking to your spouse and friends and taking care of yourself.  Many men feel more comfortable seeking help anonymously or through online resources like the Sad Daddy website.  Sometimes medication is required to get dads back on track after paternal postpartum depression strikes.

When untreated, paternal postpartum depression can spiral into depression in every aspect of a man’s life.  It can cause major rifts in marriages and disrupt the physical and financial wellbeing of the family.  Additionally, depression affects the way in which a father bonds with his baby.  The early years of life are crucial for connecting with children and setting emotional tones for their future.

It is important for those around men experiencing postpartum depression to encourage their loved one to talk through their feelings, even if it doesn’t come naturally to him.  Just like postpartum depression in women, parental postpartum depression is not his fault and the onset is often uncontrollable.  However, the outcome can be controlled when new dads seek the help they need.

Birthing Professionals: Midwife vs. Doula

Pregnant woman talking to midwifeIn these modern birthing times, there are many options for how and where to give birth, and the people who help us through the process.  Of course the traditional way is with obstetricians and nurses in a hospital, but many women are making alternative birthing choices that satisfy the experience they want while welcoming their babies into the world.  Therefore, there are a variety of birthing professionals who are trained to help new mothers with labor, delivery and postnatal care.  Two of these categories are midwives and doulas.  Today we’re examining the roles of each.

The Role of a Midwife

Midwives are birthing professionals who are trained in delivery of standard pregnancies when the mother and baby appear to have no abnormal health or high risk issues.  There are three types of midwives:  Certified Nurse Midwives are registered nurses who have passed an accredited program and exam to be certified as birthing professionals and are permitted to practice throughout the US.  Certified Midwives are not nurses but have at least a bachelor’s degree and have also passed a program and exam.   Certified Professional Midwives are not nurses but have practical childbirth experience and have passed a national exam.  Not all 50 states recognize and allow Certified Midwives and Certified Professional Midwives to delivery babies.

Midwives typically help with hospital deliveries but may also work with patients at other birthing facilities or at-home deliveries.  They are usually affiliated with an obstetrician or OBGYN practice so that they can consult or seek help should complications arise during a delivery.  Midwives offer most of the same standard prenatal care as obstetricians including performing regular prenatal exams, advising on prenatal nutrition, ordering necessary tests, supporting mothers’ emotional needs, and making birthing recommendations.  Expectant moms may choose a midwife because they are seeking more individualized attention during pregnancy and labor  and delivery, and sometimes they are hoping for minimal medical intervention throughout their birthing process.

The Role of a Doula

A birthing doula is a support specialist and companion during labor and delivery.  Doulas do not need formal medical training but are experienced in the medical aspects of labor and delivery.   Most moms-to-be who plan to use a birthing doula begin the relationship several months before giving birth to get to know one another and so the mother can fully explain her birth plan.  The doula then works with the mother throughout the childbirth process to help her achieve her wishes.

During labor, doulas are almost exclusively caring for the mother by suggesting pain solutions, relaxation techniques, labor positions and coping strategies.  A doula may massage the patient, help partners participate in labor and provide emotional support for the family.  While a doula is not certified to deliver babies in the US, she will usually stay with the mother as a doctor or midwife delivers the baby to help advocate for her desires.  After childbirth, doulas often provide additional support for breastfeeding and basic childcare needs.  Postpartum doulas are those that only focus on postnatal support once the baby arrives and they often help new families once they return home from the hospital.

Both midwives and doulas are excellent choices if you are considering birthing professionals other than your OB.  In many cases, these birthing professionals can supplement your doctor’s care to help you achieve the birth outcome you envision.

Motivational Breastfeeding Thoughts

Mother feeding breast with nursing pillowMany new moms head into breastfeeding believing that it will be a piece of cake.  They think, how could something so natural be hard?  Well, even nature requires a bit of effort.  Breastfeeding can be challenging at times, not only physically but emotionally as well.  Even when you and your baby get into a rhythm and all the kinks have been worked out, the daily repetition of breastfeeding or pumping may become tedious.  You are not a bad mother if you feel frustrated or anxious about breastfeeding.  If you are truly dedicated to sticking with it, what you need are motivational breastfeeding thoughts.  And that’s exactly what we are providing today!

Keep your eye (or breast) on the bottom line.  The number one reason why mothers’ breastfeed is to offer their babies the incredible health benefits of breast milk.  When breastfeeding gets tough and you need a boost, think about all the wonderful ways you are supporting your baby’s health now and in the future.  From providing the very best and purest nutrition to your baby, to improving immune strength and reducing the risk of many diseases and health conditions, breast milk is the ultimate baby superfood.

Develop a breastfeeding mantra.  As with any challenge in your life, sometimes you need a catch phrase to repeat to yourself that will help you get through it.  Perhaps it is something you say to your baby such as “I love you, I cherish you, I want the world for you” or “you are my precious one, you are so special to me, you deserve the best.”  Or your mantra can be more personal like “this unique bond is once in a lifetime – celebrate it while it lasts.”  Pep yourself up through whatever repetitive chant works for you.

Focus on your baby.  At some point after giving birth, motherly instincts kick in and the most important thing will be your baby.  This is how mothers bond some beautifully with their newborns.  As you share close bonding moments while breastfeeding, soak in your baby.  Notice her expressions, her smell, her coos.  Memorize her every feature, from her crinkled forehead to her adorable chin.  Learn to read her every move.  Diverting your focus from the stress of breastfeeding to the love of your child can be highly motivational.

Use breastfeeding and pumping time productively.  After you’ve breathed in your baby as much as possible, use your breastfeeding time to do something good for you and your baby.  You can start reading about the next stage in your baby’s life, learn new lullabies or nursery rhymes or listen to soothing music.  Don’t view breastfeeding as wasted time, but rather use the time to benefit both you and your baby.

Write yourself a letter stating your goals.  Before you have your baby, write down or record your breastfeeding goals.  Having written documentation of your goals can help you stick to them.  Try to include some rationale for your goal to remind the future you who may be struggling why you feel so strongly about breastfeeding.  Also, praise and reward yourself for hitting breastfeeding milestones.  These personal incentives can really help keep you on track.

Don’t go it alone.  It may feel like breastfeeding is only a 2-person sport, but you can actually rely on others for support.  When breastfeeding gets really tough, solicit help in whatever way will offer you the most assistance.  That may mean asking your partner or a friend to sit with you while breastfeeding, or attending a breastfeeding support group of other moms who are experiencing similar feelings as you.  If you are having trouble breastfeeding, seek help from your pediatrician, nurse or a lactation consultant.

Avoid being a martyr.  Breastfeeding should come from a place of love.  Feeling enslaved to breastfeeding won’t help you remain motivated.  Instead, find ways to make breastfeeding easier, such as investing in a great dual-electric pump, a solid breastfeeding pillow and a comfy breastfeeding chair.  Also, while motherhood does require some sacrifices, your own health should not be one of them.  Take care of yourself, even if it means that someone else gives your baby a breast milk bottle every once in awhile.  In the long run, a healthy mother will empower your breastfeeding journey.

We hope you find these motivational breastfeeding thoughts inspiring!  Happy Breastfeeding!

Valentine’s Day: Fun Facts

Happy Valentine's DayIt’s almost Valentine’s Day so we thought it would be fun to explore some of the neat traditions, stories and facts surrounding this most loving holiday.  Valentine’s Day is a super exciting holiday to celebrate with the entire family.  But do you know how it started?  Or why chocolates are a valued gift?  Check out these fun facts about Valentine’s Day before the celebration begins:

The Origin of Valentine’s Day

While there is some debate about the true origins of Valentine’s Day, many people believe it stems from ancient Rome when Emperor Claudius II forbade marriage during wartime.  He felt single men made better soldiers since they were not distracted by matters of the heart.  Bishop Valentine disobeyed the emperor and married lovers anyways, which landed him in jail.  He sent a letter to the jailor’s daughter from “your Valentine,” thereby adorning the holiday with his name.  He was executed on February 14, the modern day Valentine’s date.

An Official Holiday

Valentine’s Day became official in 1537 when King Henry VII declared February 14 the holiday of St. Valentine.

Wear your Heart on your Sleeve

This famous expression began in the Middle Ages.  Men would draw the name of their Valentine from a bowl and would wear it on their sleeve for a week.  Now the expression means that you show your true feelings, just like these men showed off the names of their chosen beloved.

Signed with a Kiss

In medieval times people who were unable to write their own names would use an “X” instead and kiss it to prove they would keep their word.  That is why the “X” now symbolizes a kiss.

A Rose by any other Name

Roses are said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the goddess of love.  Red has become a symbol of romance.  Nearly 200 million roses are sold in the United States around Valentine’s Day.

Cheers Chocolateers

Valentine’s Day chocolate is over a billion dollar industry.  It is believed that the world’s greatest lover, Casanova, ate chocolate to increase his sex drive.  It was also once prescribed as a remedy for a broken heart.  Over 35 million candy heart boxes are exchanged on Valentine’s Day in the U.S.

Valentine’s Babies

Babies born in November are often known as “Valentine’s Babies” because they were likely conceived around Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Inspired Baby Names

Baby names inspired by Valentine’s Day include Valentina/Valentino, Val, Rose, Lily, Ruby, Candy, Lacey, Desiree, Teddy, Romeo, Juliette, Honey and Belle.

Gifts of Love

The biggest tangible gift of love ever given was the Taj Mahal.  The Indian Emperor Shahjahan erected it as a love memorial for his wife.

Valentine’s Proposals

It is estimated that 220,000 men propose marriage on Valentine’s Day.  This is second to only Christmas Eve.

We hope you enjoyed these fun facts about Valentine’s Day and share them with all those you love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Adorable Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day with your Kids

cute little boy with a red heart in the handsValentine’s Day is one of those wonderful holidays to can incorporate the entire family.  Sharing your love with your family happens year-round but it’s fun to designate a special day to express your feelings, remind kids what love is really about and talk about kindness and caring.  To get in the festive spirit, we’ve come up with adorable ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids:

Funny Fruit Snacks:  While Valentine’s Day is usually marked with lots of not-so-healthy treats, serve up some wholesome foods with funny sayings to go with them.  Examples:  Bananas – “I’m head over peels for you!”  Oranges – “Orange you glad you’re my Valentine.”  Nuts – “I’m nuts about you, Valentine.”  Cheesy, absolutely.  But your kids will love it!

Handprint Artwork:  Nothing could be more fun than dipping your entire hand in pant to create a masterpiece.  There are tons of ways to use handprints for Valentine’s decorations.  Some include:  making hearts using your child’s thumb and pointer fingers; using handprints as wings for love birds, butterflies or cupids; or printing the sign for “I love you” on a piece of paper.  It’s messy but super fun for your kids.

Heart Wreath:  This keepsake is fairly simple to make.  Fold colorful strips of paper into 3-dementional hearts and glue, staple or tape them together.  Then line up the tips of the hearts into a circle and fasten them together.  Finally, tie a string at the top and hang it on a door as a beautiful Valentine’s Day decoration.

Have a Tea Party:  Gather up friends – real or stuffed – and host a tea party for Valentine’s Day.  Let your children set the menu and prepare the snacks.  You can use real items or pretend food, whatever suits your kids.  Then sit down for a formal tea party with lots of lively and loving conversation.

Vegetable Stamps:  Use veggies to create stamps for art projects.  You can cut potatoes into just about any shape, from a heart to a teddy bear.  Celery stalks make gorgeous roses when you cut off most of the stalks and use just the ends that are closely clustered together like the petals of a rose.  Once you have your design, dip the stamp into ink or paint and print away.  You can also use “x” and “o” potato stamps to play games of tic-tac-toe.

Friendship Bracelets:  Using pasta, cereal or beads, string friendship bracelets for your family members and friends.  They’ll love this home-made gift of love.  It’s also great for developing fine motor skills and learning patterns.

Bake and Share:  Head to the kitchen for fun cooking projects.  Try a new recipe or stick to old favorites.  Be sure to have heart-shaped cookie cutters, lots of red or pink icing and sprinkles to decorate your culinary concoctions.  When you’re done, take a few treats to friends and neighbors to spread the love.

Love Notes:  Leave your kids love notes around the house for them to discover throughout the day.  Even if they cannot read, they will be thrilled to stumble upon more and more secret messages from you.  This will brighten their day and help solidify the true meaning of Valentine’s Day – LOVE!

It’s a Baby Bash in your Womb!

Pregnant woman holding ultrasound imageIf you feel like there is a party happening inside your body and your baby is the number 1 participant, you are probably right.  Oh what fun your baby is having in your uterus as he grows and develops.  He’s learning and practicing amazing skills that he’ll need to survive on the outside world.  But for now, he’s enjoying being the life of the party in your womb.

Here are the skills your baby is working on to prepare him for life outside the womb:

Movement:  Your baby’s mobility increases daily between 15 weeks and towards the end of your third trimester when quarters get a bit tight for break-dancing.  Your baby stretches, kicks, punches, flips, wiggles, rolls and does many more acrobatics that may feel like complete shenanigans to you.  But your baby is having a blast floating and getting his exercise in your womb so enjoy the contained movement while you can.

Taste:  Amazingly, your baby can taste the food you are eating through amniotic fluid.  Certain spices and especially sweet tastes are pungent in amniotic fluid.  Your baby becomes familiar with these flavors before birth and will continue to snack on them through your breast milk once he is born.  Eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is the first step to palette training your baby.

Expression:  Somewhat like a mime, your baby is working on facial expressions in utero.  He can curl his lips into a smile and may furrow his brow as if he were angry.  Also, sonograms indicate that babies actually cry in the womb, usually when they get startled by a sound or movement.  This may make you sad, but remember, your baby’s cries are an important part of his early communication with you.  So learning to cry early is actually a good thing.

Breathe:  Another important life skill is breathing.  Your baby is practicing it now in the womb, although the umbilical cord is providing all of the oxygen he needs.  As soon as he is born, the temperature change from your body to the outside world will trigger his first real breath.  And he’ll be ready because practice makes perfect.

Listen:  By around the midpoint of your pregnancy your baby can hear your voice and those around you.  He is becoming distinctly aware of your sounds versus others, which makes him favor you after birth.  Also, exposure to certain songs or nursery rhymes in utero may be familiar to him after birth as well.

Stress:  Studies show that babies in the womb react to stress felt by their mothers.  Stress releases certain hormones in mothers that can also cause the baby to react.  Babies typically cover their faces with their left hand when they feel stressed.  So when your doctor says you need to relax, heed the advice and take a chill pill for the sake of your baby.

Suck:  Your baby is learning to suck in the womb as well.  You may even catch a glimpse of your baby sucking his thumb during an ultrasound.  This self-soothing motion is vital to your baby’s growth and independence.  It will help him suck milk from your breast and calm himself when he gets upset.  He may not be able to suck his fingers immediately after birth, but he will soon rediscover this passion.

Hiccup:  If you feel you’ve swallowed a jumping bean, chances are, your baby is just hiccupping.  Hiccups are marked by a regularly timing beat and may make you feel your entire body is bouncing.  It is completely normal for babies to get hiccups in the womb and they will continue throughout infancy.

We hope you and your baby enjoy the party that is happening in your womb.  It’s only a short 9-month bash before life completely changes for both of you.

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