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

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.

Sweet and Sexy Nursing Bra Guide for Valentine’s Day

New moms, we have great news:  You can look and feel sexy on Valentine’s Day!  Forget the baby weight you’re working on dropping.  So what if your breasts are super-duper milk-making machines.  Who cares if you haven’t showered this week?  You can still be the sassy hot mama you were before having your baby when you wear nursing bras that give you a boost of confidence, support and sexy style.  Luckily Leading Lady has it all.  Here’s a look at our Sweet and Sexy Nursing Bra Guide for Valentine’s Day:

sexy and sweet_lace_cup_wirefree_nursing_bra_407_Naughty and Nice in Lacey Nursing Bras

Soft, sensual lace is more than appropriate on the holiday of love.  Whether you’re going for sugar or spice, naughty or nice, lace is a great choice for Valentine’s Day.  Leading Lady has the perfect selection of lace nursing bras that will make your lover’s jaw drop without even missing a feeding.  Our lace nursing bras are delicate on you and your baby’s sensitive skin without the itchiness or irritation of many lace bra fabrics.  With choices like our Lace-Cup Nursing Bra in underwire or wirefree, Underwire Allover Lace Nursing Bra or Molded Seamless Lace Frame Nursing Bra, you have a range of options to meet your laciest desires.  And we bet these stunning nursing bras will be reminiscent of your favorite pre-baby Valentine’s Bras.


Sexy and sweet_black underwire nursing braSeductive Black Nursing Bra

Classically sexy, black bras never go out of style.  Black is the color of seduction, mystery and intrigue, everything you want to portray to your lover this Valentine’s Day.  With a black nursing bra, you can feed your baby before and after your hot Valentine’s date with your husband without needing to change your clothes.  Leading Lady offers many versatile black nursing bras including our most popular Molded Seamless Nursing Bra in underwire or wirefree.  For a twist on the classic black bra, check out our Nursing Bralette, that can be worn as a lace-trimmed mock cami beneath any Valentine’s Day top or dress.  Or try our Hybrid Padded Seamless Nursing Bra, a black Nursing Cami or our Modal Wirefree Nursing Bra Cami.  Keep the black magic alive this Valentine’s Day with a tempting black nursing bra.

sexy and sweet_cotton_wirefree_nursing_bra_2_pack_4001_


Peek-a-Boo Romance in Red

Red is the color of romance and we’ve got just the right red surprise for you, your baby and your Valentine.  Leading Lady’s Cotton Wirefree Nursing Bra and Modern Square Neck Nursing Cami both offer drop down nursing cups that feature a luscious red inner lining.  The stimulating shade is festive for Valentine’s Day and adds a pop of color to the striped design of these super comfortable nursing items.  The nursing bra version also features an adorable rosette for an added Valentine’s treat.  Both of these styles are fun and flirty for your Valentine’s Day attire and beyond.

sexy and sweet_silky_lace_nursing_bra_style_4006_


Sweet as an Angel

If you’re going for a sweeter look this Valentine’s Day, Leading Lady still has you covered.  Our soft white, nude and light pink hues are pure and sweet, while remaining comfortable and supportive for your breastfeeding needs.  Our Silky Lace Nursing Bra in Nude, Wirefree Cotton Nursing Bra in white and white with black dots and several of our Sport Nursing Bras are available in muted tones for a more subtly sexy Valentine’s appeal.  These colors are versatile for your year round nursing wardrobe while keeping you looking and feeling as sweet as an angel on this special holiday of love.

We hope our nursing bras help you lift, support, nourish, entice and engage all that you love this Valentine’s Day!

How to Select a Pediatrician

Paediatrics medical conceptBefore your baby arrives, it’s a good idea to select a pediatrician who can start helping you care for your baby immediately after birth.  Choosing the right pediatrician for your family is an important childcare decision and should be based on several critical factors.  Today we’re reviewing things you’ll want to consider when you select a pediatrician.

Start Early

It’s wise to start your pediatrician search at some point in your second trimester.  This will give you plenty of time to scope out the best choice for you before your little one arrives, even if the baby is a tad early.

Do Your Research

Ask friends and family in the area which practices and pediatricians they use and ask their personal opinions including any drawbacks or negative experiences they may have had.  You can also get referrals from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website.  You’ll want to make sure the practices you are targeting take your insurance too.


Most pediatrician practices offer informational sessions to new parents.  This is a time when they meet with prospective newbies like you to discuss the philosophies and procedures of their practice as we well as answer any questions you may have about how they care for their little patients.  Usually one or two doctors from the practice will be at each informational session.  If you have a certain doctor in mind, be sure to find out when that doctor will be facilitating a session.

Ask Questions

When you meet with doctors, come prepared with questions so you can really compare practices apples-to-apples.  Common questions for potential pediatricians include their vaccination schedule and policies, where they have hospital privileges (including the one where you deliver and the closest children’s hospital to you), certifications, and what their standard recommendations and support for breastfeeding, sleep schedules and other infant care issues are.  You can usually get a sense of how you will click with a doctor by getting the answers to these questions.

Appointment, Office and Call-in Procedures

It may seem trivial, but office hours are important when it comes to your pediatrician.  If you need to schedule well check-ups in the morning before heading to work, you’ll need a practice that opens early.  Also, find out what their nurse line and call-in procedures are for questions as it’s very common for first-time parents to have lots of those!  And be sure that if your child does have a problem that requires a medical referral, your pediatrician is well-connected within the medical community to make such recommendations and values coordinated care between multiple specialists.


You’ll probably want to select a pediatrician that is not terribly far from where you live, work or where your child will be in daycare, if that applies.  While location should not be the make-or-break factor, getting to your doctor quickly for unexpected sick visits is something you should consider for convenience and safety purposes.

Switching Pediatricians

If you find that you are unhappy with the pediatrician you initially selected, try to pinpoint what it is about the doctor that is bothering you.  Before switching practices completely, talk to a few nurses to get their recommendations of doctors within the practice that might be a better fit.  Larger practices offer many options and it might be easier to simply see a different doctor within the same practice, if that is allowed.  Otherwise, ask for your records to be transferred to a new practice and move forward with a new doctor.  There is usually no need to confront your old pediatrician if you just didn’t click.

We wish you the best of luck as you select a pediatrician and welcome your new baby!

How to Donate Breast Milk

Breastfeeding your baby may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.  Did you know you can also help nurture other babies by donating your breast milk?  This selfless donation is often a life-saving measure for babies who would not otherwise receive the wholesome and healing nourishment of breast milk.  Today we’re exploring how to donate breast milk.

breast pump and bags of frozen breastmilkBabies across the globe are in desperate need of breast milk.  What seems so natural and simple to you – breastfeeding your baby – is not possible in many cases.  Some mothers are unable to produce milk or enough milk to sustain their babies, especially if their babies were born prematurely or with severe complications.  Other than extreme illness or due to the medical circumstances of the mother, babies who were adopted or born via surrogacy are in need of breast milk too.  As you probably already know, breast milk is one of the best preventative healthcare measures a baby can receive, especially those who begin their lives with critical health conditions.  When you donate breast milk, you can give these babies a chance at the best start to life, just like you are giving your own baby.

Becoming a breast milk donor is fairly simple if you are committed to the process.  Essentially you will pump excess milk and store it in your freezer until you have enough to ship to a breast milk bank where it can be distributed to babies in need.  Breast milk banks are all adamant that the needs of your own baby should come first, and any excess milk your baby will not use can be donated.

There are some basic medical background requests of mothers that most breast milk banks require before approving moms as breast milk donors.  The expenses for these procedures are usually covered by the breast milk bank.  Mothers will need to:

  • Retrieve written consent from her own physician confirming that she is in good health.
  • Retrieve written consent from her pediatrician that she is meeting the nutritional needs of her baby before donating breast milk.
  • Take a blood test to check for diseases.
  • Offer a cheek cell sample to check for disease and record DNA.

Most breast milk banks also have requirements for collecting and storing milk:

  • Breast milk should be pumped using a sanitized breast pump.
  • Milk should be collected and immediately placed into human milk storage containers only housing milk from one single pumping session.
  • Milk should be frozen immediately after collection.
  • Milk cannot be thawed and refrozen.
  • All milk should be labeled with the date/time of collection.
  • Freezers must be kept at an appropriate temperature as gauged by a thermometer.
  • Breast milk should be sent to milk banks within a set period of time after collection (usually not older than 10 months).

Breast milk banks offer sanitation guidelines similar to those you would use with milk you serve to your own baby.  These include:

  • Always washing your hands before handling your pump or breast milk containers.
  • Frequently washing the parts of your pump that touch your body or your breast milk.
  • Using sponges and brushes only designed and designated to clean bottles and breast milk storage containers.  Run them through the dishwasher if appropriate.
  • Allow your cleaning supplies to fully dry and replace them often.
  • Keep your breasts clean by showering daily.

There are many online resources to help you find a local or national breast milk bank.  Typically, mothers will select a breast milk bank and qualify as an exclusive donor for that facility.  Once approved, breast milk banks often offer free storage containers and shipping supplies and reimbursement to transport donated breast milk.  Local breast milk banks likely supply your breast milk to babies at hospitals around your community, whereas national breast milk banks may ship milk to wherever it is needed most.

Giving the gift of breast milk is an act of kindness that can save the lives of countless innocent babies.  Many mothers feel extremely rewarded by offering this anonymous gift to babies in need.  After meeting the nutritional needs of your own baby, consider becoming a breast milk donor.

First Birthday Party Ideas

Portrait of happy mom and baby eating birthday cake

It may seem like just yesterday you were headed to the hospital to give birth.  Now here you are with an almost one-year-old!  My how time flies!  A first birthday party is a monumental and memorable occasion to celebrate your baby and congratulate yourself on making it through the first year in one piece.

A first birthday party is a special time for your entire family, but do remember that it is for your one-year-old.  Keep things short, sweet and simple by not planning too many activities, limiting the party to 90 minutes or less and not inviting too many guests.  Food options should be appropriate for the guest of honor, such as fruit, crackers and a smashable birthday dessert, of course.  Here are some first birthday party ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Circus Party:  Having a one-year-old may feel a bit like a 3-ring circus.  Make a party out of this happy chaos by creating different activity stations for your baby and guests to enjoy.  At one station fill a blow-up pool with water for the kids to splash around or fill it with plastic balls to create a ball pit.  Another station can have dress up items such as masks, wigs, hats and glasses.  Be sure to include a clown wig and nose.  Set up an obstacle course for a third station.  Use hula-hoops, tunnels, balls, tents and whatever else you have on hand that will make a fun set-up for tots.

Racecar Party:  Babies, start your engines!  This party idea will be a wild ride for all the kiddos.  Scatter various large vehicular toys along your driveway or throughout your basement or playroom.  Let the babes take turns riding or pushing the toys to their heart’s content.  Because your baby’s one-year-old guests may be at different skill levels between walking, pulling up and crawling, offer options where they can be pushed by parents, walk themselves or scoot along merrily.  If necessary, borrow toys from friends to ensure lots of options.

Music Party:  Babies love to boogie.  Invite a music teacher or local musician to lead or play live music for the little ones.  Or, you can create your own dance party with a great baby classics mix.  Be sure to have lots of small instruments on hand for babies to shake, rattle and roll.

Scavenger Hunt Party:  You may have noticed by now that your baby likes to put things in buckets, baskets and other containers.  It is fascinating for babies to take everything out of a container and then put it back in again.  Use this preoccupation as a scavenger hunt party theme.  Hide objects throughout your yard or house and have all of your baby guests crawl or walk around collecting them in a bag or basket.  Plastic eggs, rubber duckies or palm-sized balls all make good items for babies to discover.

Book-Inspired Party:  If your baby has a favorite book – such as Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See, The Hungry Hungry Caterpillar or Curious George – use this as a theme for your party.  Plan activities and food selections that match your child’s literary fantasy and spend about 10-15 minutes reading some of your baby’s favorite books to your guests.

Animal Lover Party:  Many babies are fond of animals.  If seasonably appropriate, throw your party at a barn that has a petting zoo component.  Otherwise, hire a small petting zoo to come to your home with easily portable animals like chicks, bunnies and small pigs.  The babies will enjoy petting and imitating the animals throughout the party.

Nautical Party:  Babies love soothing motions so set sail on a magical boat ride at a nearby lake or river.  Hire a boat for a short adventure ride for your party guests and then spend time along the bank splashing about.  Serve snacks and cake at a nearly picnic pavilion.

Happy first birthday to your little tot and your entire family!

Rh Factor and Pregnancy

At your early OB appointments during pregnancy, you may have heard mumblings about your Rh factor or Rh status.  Rh (short for Rhesus) is a protein that is usually present in red blood cells.  Most women have it and are considered Rh positive.  However, if you are Rh negative, you’ll need to take some extra steps during your pregnancy for the safety of your baby and future children.

Pregnant woman and doctor.Early in your pregnancy you will likely take a blood test to verify your blood type and determine if you are Rh positive or Rh negative.  There are four human blood types – A, B, AB and O – which are determined by antigens or proteins found in your blood.  Rh factor is yet another type of antigen or protein.  The majority of women are Rh positive.  Asian and African-American women as groups are 90% Rh positive or higher, while around 85% of Caucasian women are Rh positive.

Complications due to Rh factor only arise during pregnancy and childbirth if a mother and baby have opposite Rh factors.  It is unlikely that you will know your baby’s Rh factor prior to birth so it is safest to assume that your baby is Rh positive.  Therefore, if you test Rh negative, you will need to take precautions during pregnancy.

During a first pregnancy, incompatible Rh factors may not make a difference during pregnancy; however it can cause problems in future pregnancies.  In the unlikely event that your first baby’s Rh positive blood seeps into your Rh negative blood stream during pregnancy, your immune system may build up antibodies against it.  The next time you become pregnant with a Rh positive baby, your body could attack your baby’s blood and cause major problems.

The most likely time for your blood to mix with your babies is during childbirth.  Because this is such a short time, your body may not even have a chance to develop antibodies, but it is important to know your status and take precautions in advance anyways.  If you are Rh negative, you will be given a shot of Rh immune globulin at some point during your second trimester.  This will prevent your body from creating antibodies against your baby’s Rh positive blood and combat any contamination that your baby’s blood may cause in your system.

If your first or subsequent babies are exposed to the antibodies that your immune system produces against their blood, it could lead to Rh disease or hemolytic disease.  This disease causes your baby to have anemia and your baby may be jaundice or have other birth defects.  In some cases if it happens during pregnancy, it can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.

You will probably know your Rh factor from your first pregnancy.  If you are unsure, you can have a simple blood test to re-check your status.  Also, blood work can show if your body ever developed antibodies to a previous baby’s incompatible blood.  Additionally, you can determine the likelihood of your baby’s Rh factor by knowing the father’s Rh factor.  If you and the father are negative, your baby will surely be Rh negative as well and then no shot or risk of complications are present.

Fortunately, with proper and consistent prenatal care, not knowing and acting on incompatible Rh factors is highly unlikely.  The most important step is being aware and take proper precautions to keep you and your baby safe.

Fun Ways to Predict Girl Baby vs. Boy Baby

Roll the Dice - Deliver Boy or Girl Baby in PregnancyOther than through blood tests, ultrasounds and amniotic testing, there is no way to predict with certainty whether you are having a girl baby vs. boy baby.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s not fun to try!  For centuries people have developed methods and theories to predict babies’ genders.  They may not be accurate, but they sure are fun to indulge.  Today we’re taking a look at some of the more popular amateur predictors of whether you are having a girl baby vs. boy baby.

How You Carry:  When it comes to wives’ tales, the way you carry your baby is a common indicator of a girl baby vs. boy baby.  Many people believe girl babies sit higher in the womb and boy babies sit lower.  Others think that boys cause their mother’s bump to stick straight out while girls make their mother’s bump grow wider from side-to-side.

Morning Sickness:  Another widespread pregnancy lore is that morning sickness is worse with girl babies than boy babies.  The truth is that doctors still don’t fully understand what causes morning sickness and why some women experience it while others do not.  However, many women who have been through pregnancy claim they were sicker with girl babies than boys.

Cravings:  Here’s a fun one:  if you’re having a girl, you crave sugar and spice and everything sweet, including fruit.  If you’re having a boy, you crave meat, protein and hearty meals.  Although a little stereotypical, it is fascinating to dissect your cravings as a predictor of your baby’s gender.

Face Forward:  Acne and other skin and facial changes are common during pregnancy.  Some people believe if your face gets rounder during pregnancy, you’re having a girl and if your face stays slim, a boy is on the way.  Similarly, clear skin is believed to be a sign of a boy while pimples sometimes indicate a girl.

Breast Changes:  Yes, your breasts are changing to get ready for milk production and breastfeeding.  But what can your breasts tell you about the gender of your baby?  Well, legend says a larger left breast means you’re having a boy and a larger right breast means its pink all the way.  Also, some believe that darker nipples are a sign of a boy.

Urine Sample:  Urine samples can certainly tell you that you ARE pregnant, but perhaps it holds a clue to what you’re pregnant with.  This theory implicates bright yellow urine for boys and dull, cloudy urine for girls.  If only your urine could come out blue or pink, it would be so simple.

Ring Test:  This one seems strange but perhaps there is something to the mysterious test.  Put your wedding ring on a string and dangle it over your baby bump.  A side-to-side motion means you’ll be welcoming a girl while a circular motion indicates a boy.  Weird, but worth a shot, right?

Key Test:  Does this one hold the “key” to baby girl vs. baby boy?  Hand a mom-to-be a key and take note of where she holds it.  If she grabs the wider top part, a girl is on the way.  But if she takes the skinner long part, it’s a boy for her.

Sleep Test:  Hopefully you are getting some zzz’s during pregnancy.  Ancient wisdom purports that left side sleepers are having boys and right side sleepers are having girls.  If you sleep propped on your back, it’s all a gamble!

We hope you enjoy these whimsical ways to predict whether your baby will be a girl baby vs. boy baby.  While none are proven to be tried and true, they sure are fun to play.

Pregnancy Edema or Pregnancy Swelling

Moms-to-be expect, and often embrace, their growing baby bumps.  But when other areas start to grow or swell too, it may be less than pleasant.

Pregnancy edema or pregnancy swelling occurs in up to 75% of pregnant women.  For most women it appears around the midway point of pregnancy and lasts until shortly after childbirth.  It is caused by an increase in bodily fluids, especially blood.  In fact, your body produces approximately 50% more blood and fluid during pregnancy than when not pregnant.  This extra blood is necessary to help sustain your baby during pregnancy.  After all, you are pumping blood for two during this precious period of constant growth and development.

Young pregnant woman relaxingHere’s what is happening:  The weight of the uterus puts pressure on pelvic veins as well as the vena cava, a vein that carries blood from the lower half of your body to your heart.  Swelling is a result of this pressure from extra fluids.  Additionally, your body may be retaining water throughout pregnancy, which contributes to pregnancy edema.  Extra fluids help keep joints and tissues mobile and ready for delivery, and soften the body to nurture your baby.

Typically, pregnancy edema is most prevalent in the feet and ankles.  These areas can swell quite a bit and may swell worse at nighttime or in hot weather.  Lower extremities tend to swell worse due to gravity.  Hands can also swell, which is why you may find it difficult to take off or put on rings that typically fit perfectly.  Don’t have them resized just yet!  This symptom usually goes away within days or a few short weeks after your baby arrives.

Because pregnancy edema is so common, it is usually not a cause for concern.  Mild swelling is normal, however severe, sudden or prolonged swelling can be a sign of a bigger problem.  Obstetricians become concerned that pregnancy swelling is a sign of preeclampsia if it is paired with high blood pressure and rapid weight gain.  But swelling alone usually does not predict preeclampsia.

Pregnancy edema can become worse if you are consuming excessive salt or caffeine.  Also, swelling is a sign of low potassium in your diet.  Standing or sitting for too long may cause your feet and legs to swell too.

Although some level of edema may not be avoidable, you can try a few ways to reduce swelling.  First, don’t sit or stand for too long and don’t spend too much time outdoors in the heat.  If you find your feet are swelling, lean back and prop your legs to allow blood to flow smoothly.  Don’t wear restrictive socks that may reduce circulation to your feet and ensure you’re always wearing comfortable shoes that will allow your feet to breathe.

Soaking in a pool or bath may relieve swelling or try cool compresses in the areas that are most affected.  Drink plenty of water to help flush your system and encourage the release of water retention through urination.  Also, watch that your diet is not contributing to the condition.

Swelling in unexpected areas beyond your belly is a normal part of pregnancy.  Do what you can to reduce pregnancy edema and relieve your discomfort.  If the problem is persistent or unbearable, contact your OB for consultation.


Raising Confident Kids

Mother and daughter relaxing in park.Raising confident kids is probably a goal for most parents out there.  It sounds so easy, right?  Give them encouragement, pat them on the back, and help them be successful in life.  Well, easier said than done.  Many psychological and environmental elements come into play when we look at the emotional development of children and raising confident kids.  While every child is different, there are some fundamental values and behaviors we can foster to help our children find confidence without be arrogant or narcissistic in a world driven by success.

Failure is a great learning tool.  It’s so hard to watch your child fail, but it’s also extremely important.  Failure is one of the best ways we all learn from mistakes and rediscover new and better ways to do things.  Allowing failure can start in infancy as you watch your baby struggle to push up, roll over, crawl or walk.  While you never want to put your child in harm’s way, by not “doing it for him” you are teaching resiliency and determination.  Most babies have the drive to reach these milestones inherently and will eventually get there on their own.  As your children grow, this same theme will reappear many times.  Do your best to be there for them without fixing all their problems.  Sometimes they will cry and you can wipe tears, but don’t let them miss the important lesson of failure.

Let them follow their passions.  People succeed most in areas where they are passionate.  Your children will certainly have many passions throughout their lives.  Let them discover what they are good at and what they enjoy through play-based learning.  Get involved in their passions and let them be involved in yours as well.  Use their interests as ways to communicate with your kids.  For example, if your child loves superheroes, teach good behavior, problem-solving and courage through his beloved super friends.  If your child likes cooking, use the kitchen as a classroom for decision-making, math skills, health and hygiene, and trial-and-error.

Give them chores to learn responsibility.  Chores are essential for children to learn to be a productive member of their community without feeling entitled.  And their first community is your family.  Starting around age 3, give your child small assignments such as cleaning up their toys, throwing away trash or helping you feed pets.  As they grow, continue giving them age-appropriate chores to teach responsibility in your household and beyond.

Teach accountability by discovering consequences.  Without consequences, children do not have boundaries and may not learn accountability.  Much like failure, discovering a negative consequence to an action can be a great learning tool.  In order to teach this valuable lesson, you must allow your children freedom to make some of their own choices, such as what to wear on a cold day or how to react to a negative situation.  If they choose shorts and a t-shirt on a blistering winter day, they may be quite cold, but they have learned to pay attention to the weather.  If they choose to be in a bad mood about something out of their control, they may miss out on a fun activity or simply have a lousy day.  Consequences don’t have to be punishments, but rather a result of a choice your children get to make on their own.  When they have control, the lesson is much more easily absorbed.

Help them express themselves.  Listening to your kids is very important for boosting confidence, even if your kids have an endless amount of things to say.  When you find your child having trouble expressing himself, help him come up with the words to define his feelings.  Sometimes frustration and anger can cause kids to lash out, misbehave or give up, all behaviors you certainly want to avoid.  Although these feelings are a normal part of childhood (and sometimes adulthood too!), encourage your child to express feelings of frustration or inadequacy and then redirect the feelings productively.  For example, if your child is upset he cannot do a puzzle, explain that these feelings are normal and you’re proud of him for trying hard to achieve a goal.  Then help him break down the problem and find solutions, perhaps starting with edge pieces first or looking for matching color patterns.

For better or for worse, don’t make comparisons.  As human beings and parents, it is so hard not to compare our kids to others.  After all, so much of our success is measured by how we stack up against others like us.  However, pointing out your children’s shortcomings based on the abilities of their peers or even showing them how they are better than their peers can be quite damaging.  Rather, encouraging self-improvement, measuring your child on his own scale and acknowledging major accomplishments are all appropriate for building confidence.  Being the best your child can be is what you should strive to convey.

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