Inspiration + Advice

The Birth Preferences Grid
 
Wicker Bassinet
 
 

By Erin Erenberg

You’ve probably heard of the birth plan. Setting intentions and visualizing what we want is a great way to set ourselves up for the results we want, in just about every experience we value. But the idea of a birth plan is a charged topic.

For one thing, healthcare providers who enter into a woman’s birth experience all come with their own ideas, goals, and background. Doctors are taught to value risk. They are calculating the risks for mother and child and are trained to eliminate risk as a whole. But a woman facing her own labor and delivery is having a more singular experience. Many times, she’s prepared mentally and physically for the birth that she wants and has an attachment to how the experience will unfold. We cannot pretend that a woman doesn’t have the right to become emotionally involved with her vision. But sometimes complications arise that keep a woman from the experience she’d hoped for, and that’s where the need for flexibility and a softer grip on that vision becomes important.

We wrote a “birth plan” for baby number one, a “birth vision” for baby number two, and then were introduced to the idea of a “birth preferences grid” by Erica Chidi Cohen and her book Nurture, just before baby number three. We found this tool to be a straightforward way to communicate an intention while providing the flexibility needed in case a woman’s vision is recast by the unexpected. Here’s our example. Maybe it will help you or a friend clarify and communicate your vision.

Be informed, be empowered, mama,

Erin


Birth Preferences Grid

Name: Erin Erenberg
Partner: Victor
OB-GYN: Dr. Sara Klevens
Goal: unmedicated vaginal delivery if mom and baby are healthy; have had two unmedicated births at St. John’s (2012, 2014)


Starting Labor

Non-medical induction methods

  • Acupuncture, chiropractic adjustment, squats etc.

  • We would like to avoid medical induction unless there is a risk to mother or baby

Pushing & Delivery

Spontaneous, with varied positions

Perineal Care

  • Guided pushing and positioning, counter-pressure, massage with mineral oil

  • No episiotomy unless medically necessary


During Labor

Monitoring

  • Intermittent; want to be free to move about during labor

  • No IV or IV fluids unless medically necessary

Food & Drink

  • Access to liquids/ice according to thirst

Newborn Care & Nursing

  • Delay cord clamping and cutting

  • Quick transfer to mother for skin to skin contact and breastfeeding for as long a possible

  • Allow/assist mother to breastfeed within two hours of delivery

  • No pacifier/bottle/formula unless requested

  • If mother is asleep for feeding, please wake her


Pain Relief

  • Breathing, movement, relaxation techniques

  • No epidural desired

  • Narcotics - do not offer; Tylenol only if requested after birth; allergic to Advil; bad past experience with narcotics (Vicodin) after first birth

Placenta

  • Please save for encapsulation

 
What if One of the Most Powerful Things You Could Do as a Parent Was Also One of the Simplest?
 
Boy in jacket looking out at a forest
 
 

By Robin Fawcett

What if one of the most powerful things you could do as a parent was also one of the simplest?

As a family doctor – and a mom of two boys – I know how challenging the early parenting years can feel. New mothers are overwhelmed by (often conflicting) expert advice about exactly how we should feed/sleep/discipline/teach these tiny people, often while feeling emotionally unsupported and exhausted ourselves.

My first son, Henry, was born when I was a third-year resident near Washington DC. When Henry was 13 months old, we moved to London, England; I went from full-time doctor to full-time mom, and I suddenly had a lot more time to think about how to raise our son. My medical background had alerted me to concerning trends in both the US and the UK: rising levels of childhood overweight and obesity; alarming increases in mental health problems in adolescents and young people; increasing percentages of children with developmental delays and sensory disorders. 

Parenting in a new culture is a great excuse to think critically about best practices. One of the surprises for me was the European focus on getting children outside in nature. As I began reading about Scandinavian outdoor preschools and German forest kindergartens, I found startling connections between environment and health. Spending time in nature – woods, gardens, fields, beaches – has been valued as promoting good health in ancient cultures around the world, perhaps most famously the practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” in Japan. 

As I began reading about Scandinavian outdoor preschools and German forest kindergartens, I found startling connections between environment and health.

Good doctor that I am, I decided to use my own toddler as a guinea pig. I bought waterproof winter gear for him, fleece-lined wellies for me, and we began spending hours outside in our local woodland park every day, rain or shine.

What we discovered is echoed in the scientific literature. Henry had better sleep. A lustier (and less picky) appetite. More independent problem-solving. A much longer attention span, and an even longer fuse (tantrums virtually disappeared). Coughs and colds were much rarer, too, when Henry made mud pies instead of handling shared plastic toys at an indoor playgroup. 

Lo and behold, there were benefits for me, too. I was still a lonely mom in a new town, but my happiness received a vital daily boost from being among trees, streams, and birdsong. I coped better with frustration and remained more present. Plus, let’s be honest: watching a toddler climb logs and explore puddles is way more joyful than playing with plastic bricks. I found myself enjoying being a full-time mom in a way I had never expected. 

Unstructured play is the real work of childhood. An entire industry has been built around music classes, dance classes, and gym classes for young children, but quite frankly none of these have been shown to have the physical and emotional benefits that a wooded park can provide (for free). According to pediatric occupational therapist Angela Hanscom has written, “Nature is the ultimate sensory experience.”

Unstructured play is the real work of childhood.

So I invite you to ditch many (or all!) of your young child’s organized activities, and take yourselves outside instead. Even now that my boys are at school, I crave my daily dose of nature-time, and my body and mind are healthier for it.

Top tips:

  1. Dress sensibly: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. Make sure you and your child are warm and dry. Waterproof overalls and wellies are ideal, so that the clothes underneath stay clean (lifesaver). Your child needs to be free to explore her environment however she chooses, without you protesting that she’s going to get muddy or ruin her shoes. If the weather is warm, be prepared for sun and insects.

  2. Playgrounds are not nature. Find a little wilderness park (even a vacant lot!) where there is soil, greenery, and (preferably) some water for your child to engage with.

  3. Leave screens at home. Yup, you too, mama (or on airplane mode at the very least). 

  4. Leave toys at home. Kids will astonish you with what they find to play with outdoors if they aren’t distracted. 

  5. Try NOT to hover, direct, or correct your child’s play. Practice what parenting expert Vicki Hoefle calls “duct tape parenting,” and imagine your mouth is taped shut. Unless your child is in serious danger, let them make mistakes and even take a few minor bumps. This is how children learn best (and why their bodies heal so fast). Confession: this was super-hard for me; “be careful” was my favorite phrase. If you really feel you need to say something, try “pay attention” instead.

  6. Don’t be all teacher-y about nature. Young kids don’t learn well from lecturing and explaining (something most schools could stand to learn, but that’s for another day…). Children live in a different state of reality than we do, with brain wave patterns that are more dream-world than real-world. Forget any educational agenda and just let them PLAY. You may be surprised by what you learn.

  7. Let your children mess around with nature a little bit; woods are not a museum. This can be challenging if your local park has a lot of rules about staying on paths and not climbing trees, but unless you live in an endangered habitat, nature can handle it. Kids need to root around in the soil, gather pebbles, and pick leaves from shrubs in order to play creatively. Remember, they are more likely to be passionate about protecting the natural world as adults if they are allowed to fall in love with it as children, but they can’t fall in love with something if they never allowed to engage with it.

  8. Revisit the same area again and again, and get to know it well. As my son (and then his younger brother) became familiar with our park, they began noticing the changes that come with seasons and the cycles of life. It’ll make you feel more secure, too, and you’ll feel comfortable letting your kids roam a little freer as they get older. 

Now that my boys are 6 and 9, we still spend a lot of time in that same park. These days, however, they bring me along. I make myself comfortable on a mossy log with a book and Thermos of tea, while they disappear into the shrubbery to make dens or ride dragons. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

For further reading:

Last Child in the Woods and Vitamin N by Richard Louv

Free Range Kids by Leonore Skenazy


 
 
Robin Fawcett

Dr. Robin Fawcett is an American MD now practicing as a general practitioner in England with her own natural wellness business. Robyn has an MA in the History of Medicine and is a member of the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine. You can find Robin on Facebook as The Essential GP and read more from her on motherhood here.

 
How Depression Motivated Me to Change the Postpartum Experience for Mothers Everywhere
 
Mother sitting with baby, looking down at ground away from camera
 
 

By Natalie Telyatnikov

Founder of Better Postpartum

My story isn’t remarkable and it certainly isn’t glamorous. It’s actually quite common--1 in 5 common. Although, if we’re being honest, it’s probably even more common than “1 in 5” because so many women go undiagnosed and unreported. Just as I did, during my entire longer-than-year-long-bout of postpartum depression, which I had after the birth of my first son. I, like many others, just didn’t know enough about it, to recognize that I had it.

I knew I felt exhausted and challenged. That much was clear. But I thought I was able to rationalize all of my inconvenient emotions, like my moodiness, weepiness, and frustration, on things like: not having slept in days, or on just wanting breastfeeding to work so badly, despite the pain and discomfort. Now, I could go on and on about the beautiful, natural, textbook HypnoBirth I had with my first son, because I love reliving the glory of it. So much of it was truly beautiful. I gave birth with a midwife and a doula by my side at a birth center that was reminiscent of a charming bed and breakfast.

So why did I end up having postpartum depression?

Well, perhaps, it was because I wasn’t thinking about the inconvenient parts. The hard parts. The parts I never wanted to talk about. Like the fact that I had vaginally delivered my son ‘posterior,’ so he broke my tailbone. I hemorrhaged and tore badly, needing much stitching and suturing. The first thing I felt after hearing my son’s first cries was a needle of pitocin forced into my thigh, to stop me from ‘bleeding out,’ followed by a long painful period of receiving stitches in my most delicate places. These interruptions–both chemical and physical–can end up taking their toll on one’s entire postpartum experience.

After breaking my tailbone and losing blood from my posterior delivery, I became anemic and hypoglycemic, and my postpartum journey felt like an uphill battle from the start. From this baseline of utter depletion, I forged ahead, as many of us do, into the rough and sometimes unforgiving first weeks of motherhood. I continued to deplete myself with what seemed like endless acts of giving.

My early days as a new mom were riddled with challenges. Breastfeeding challenges, for one, caused my baby undue starvation, and myself a terrible infection-resulting illness. Troubled sleep eventually spiraled completely out of control, resulting in my development of chronic insomnia, heart palpitations, and nighttime anxiety. As a result, my mood was affected. My whole life was affected.

Being so sick and run down for so long quickly rendered me weepy and depressed. There is nothing more depressing than ill health--especially when it makes you feel incapable of caring for your own baby.

And it still puzzles me, to this day, that neither I, nor a single one of the plethora of pediatricians, OBGYNs, or any of the other specialists I came in contact with during that time in my life, thought that maybe–just maybe–given the glazed-over look in my eyes and the tear stains on my shirt, I was perhaps in a state of crisis–and suffering from depression.

No medical professional I came in contact with even so much as suggested the term, and I was conditioned to hold their opinions of me in very high regard–even above my own intuition.

Which is why, it is sadly no surprise to me, that our country is in a state of maternal health crisis. The maternal mortality rate is staggering, as are the amount of "near-misses,” and maternal deaths. We’re just not looking at the signs. Largely because we can’t look for things we haven’t learned about.

I went on to dedicate my life to making sure that no other woman would ever go through what I went through, without the proper education, support, healing tools, and a clear and easier path through to the other side.

I am now a trained doula and postpartum support specialist, as well as a certified postpartum care practitioner, who has already helped thousands of women (and counting) through my work with Better Postpartum: A platform I created so that all women could access knowledge about true postpartum support and healing from a wide range of medical and other birthing professionals–the kind of knowledge that our post-birth physiology mandates that we ALL SHOULD have–in order to ensure a happier, more healthful postpartum for ourselves and our babies during that crucial first year of life together... and beyond.

It was a long road to recovery, but I now know in my heart that everything I went through was a means to an end, ultimately leading me to my purpose in creating this incredible resource for women…a ‘one-stop-shop’ containing the wisdom of every professional that any expectant or postpartum mother would need to hear from, in order to experience the most enriching and rewarding postpartum: the sacred, small window of time they have to thoroughly enjoy their baby, on the other side of giving birth.

Because as it turns out: Postpartum recovery, hormones, sleep, nutrition…all of it can be managed.

You CAN make your body and mind work for you, instead of against you, after you give birth to your baby. And you can even live on to benefit from a more vibrant state of health after birth, than you enjoyed pre-pregnancy!

You just have to know how.

And that's what I'm here to help with.

 
The Power of Intuition and Believing in Yourself
 
Wendy Thomas
 
 

By Wendy Thomas

@wendythomascoaching

I never really understood what it meant to “listen to your intuition”. But one day, just over a year ago, I witnessed a voice in the back of my mind and a feeling in my gut. This was my intuition and following it literally saved my life.

Had I not listened to these signs, I would not have discovered what turned out to be an early-stage breast cancer diagnosis, and my life would be so very different today. I believe that this life has so many opportunities in store for us, but we have to be open and ready to listen to the changes that are trying to take place.

As mothers, our lives get so busy that it can be easy to ignore these messages from our subconscious, emotional minds. We tend to live dictated by our conscious minds, which are connected to the world around us through our five senses. If we are going to make big changes and pursue big dreams of achieving more in life, we need to learn to tap into our higher mental faculties: our perception, our will, our imagination, our memory, our reason and our intuition. Taking the time to connect to the emotional mind is what ultimately drives meaningful change in our lives. We have to tap into our subconscious wisdom, and not only listen to what we want, but also believe we are capable of achieving it.

It’s important for mothers to continually check in on the quality of our belief systems when it comes to ourselves and self-worth. Our lives can become consumed by what other people think of us and what we think we are capable of achieving. Living by such standards seriously limits us in our ability to achieve our highest potential. As humans, we become what we think about, underscoring the importance of not only having a strong and accurate self-image, but also striving to see the gifts in every situation. As Marcus Aurelius says, “the happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

I am passionate about connecting to people, and helping them to uncover the messages from their intuitive minds and realize their full potential through the power of a positive mindset. My work is grounded in inspiring women to be their best self in order to live a life that brings the greatest sense of purpose and satisfaction. Learn more about my individual and team coaching offers at Wendy Thomas Coaching.

 
Things You Should Know About Your Pelvic Floor - Before, During & After Pregnancy
 
Pregnant woman sitting on medicine ball doing pelvic floor exercises
 
 

By Allison Oswald

When women think of the pelvic floor, they most often think kegels. But it’s time for women to know there is so much more to the pelvic floor than just that.

The pelvic floor is a key component to the core system. Giving support to the contents of the abdominal cavity, maintaining sphincter control to the bodily systems and providing sexual function and pleasure, it goes well beyond simply contracting.

Connecting to the pelvic floor is empowering, grounding and strengthening. A healthy pelvic floor functions all day, everyday, without too much recognition. Most women are not in tune to how it works until a problem or dysfunction arises. But if women could understand its function prior to that, they would be more prepared to mediate an issue, possibly prevent a dysfunction and be able to heal or recover more efficiently from an injury or childbirth.

The pelvic floor is a sling of muscles at the base of the pelvis that connect from the tailbone to the pubic bone. They contract in anticipation of movement to stabilize the pelvis, as well as lengthen to accommodate any increased pressure, such as with a cough or a sneeze. These muscles work in conjunction with the diaphragm, our major breathing muscle, which is why breath is so crucial in connecting to the pelvic floor. These two components also work together with the deepest abdominal muscles and back muscles. Together these four parts are the “core” or “stabilizing system”. Keeping these parts aligned properly also contributes to proper function. Alignment is unique to each individual, but in general it is advised to keep a neutral posture, meaning that the pelvis is neither tipped forward or backwards, and the rib cage/diaphragm is stacked directly on top of the pelvis, so that the upper chest is neither puffed up or rounded down. With this alignment and diaphragmatic breathing, the core system is set up to work as efficiently as possible.

Thinking about becoming pregnant, experiencing pregnancy and recovering from pregnancy are all phases of life where women become more attuned and aware of their bodies. This is especially so as it relates to the external appearance of the mother’s growing belly, changing posture and overall weight gain. But this is also a pivotal time for women to connect deeper to their pelvic floor, as it relates back to those physical changes as well as the emotional changes.

Here are some things women should know about their pelvic floor before, during and after pregnancy:

Preconception

Let It Go

Women hold a lot of tension in their bodies, specifically in the pelvic floor, without consciously thinking about it. In order to conceive, good circulation in the pelvis is crucial , which can be restricted with muscle tightness. One way to resolve this is to begin by making sure you are not standing or sitting with your butt tucked under you throughout the day. This position shortens the pelvic floor muscles and can cause unnecessary tightness.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Begin a breathing practice to coordinate the diaphragm and pelvic floor system. Sit comfortably in good alignment (slight curve in the lower back). Inhale through your nose as the ribcage expands laterally and feel the pelvic floor lengthen down/relax. Then exhale through your mouth as the rib cage comes back in and the pelvic floor recoils back up and in. Getting your body in tune with this connection and movement will allow you to carry it over into your everyday life, exercise and movement practice so that it becomes more natural.

Pregnancy

Maintain Alignment As Best As Possible

As the physical changes occur during pregnancy, it can be easy to allow your body to fall into a less supported position where you hang out in the front of your hips while standing or slouch down while sitting. This will prevent your entire core system (including the pelvic floor) from functioning as best as it can, which could lead to low back pain, hip pain or incontinence.

Exhale With Any Exertion

Blowing out through your mouth as you lift anything somewhat heavy, or get up from a low position, etc...will automatically contract the pelvic floor to give you more support. Whereas holding your breath during these activities can lead to issues such as low back pain, incontinence, diastasis recti (abdominal wall separation) and hemorrhoids due to the pressure put down on the pelvic floor.

Deep Squat To Stretch the Pelvic Floor

Near the end of pregnancy, it is important to allow yourself to stretch the pelvic floor to prepare for labor and be able to breath in and out as these muscles stretch further. This is the only time you would exhale as you lengthen these muscles intentionally versus letting them naturally recoil up and in. Take a deep squat with support and breath as you visualize the pelvic floor lengthening and opening up.

Postpartum

Leaking Is Not “Normal”

Just because you’ve had a baby (vaginal or c-section) does not make urinary incontinence ok. And doing kegels is not typically the fix. Seek out a pelvic floor physical therapist to be properly evaluated and set up with a treatment plan specific to your needs.

Sex Should Not Be Painful

Painful sex, or dyspareunia, is persistent genital or pelvic pain, before, during or after sex. And it can be caused by a multitude of factors postpartum, some of which include pelvic tension, scar tissue, hormone levels and more. Working with a pelvic floor physical therapist is to determine the cause and set up a treatment plan is crucial.


 
 
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@allisonoswald

A true visionary in the realm of women’s health, Allison Oswald, PT, DPT, WCS, CPT works with women by focusing on the core as a pivotal point for well-being. While attending school to become a board certified physical therapist, Allison recognized a major gap in existing treatment, specifically related to women and women’s health issues. An area of the body that is often overlooked, the pelvis is the central anatomy from which virtually all other facets of our health operate. In 2011, Allison set up her private clinic, Plumb Line Studios in Santa Monica, CA. As a mother herself, Allison finds her passion in working with women who are in their childbearing years and postnatally, as she knows first hand, this area of health can be challenging without the proper support.

 
7 Things My Kids Have Taught Me About Happiness
 
Zelana Montminy walking with son across street
 
 

By Zelana Montminy

Article originally published on mindbodygreen


1. Joy is in the moment.

Watch children greet any morning and you will see the greatest example of mindfulness in practice. This quality makes life so much richer through the eyes of children. They find joy in every moment. They aren't looking toward the future or worried about the past the way adults tend to be. Whether they're playing with a set of building blocks, eating breakfast, or reading a book, what they're doing at the moment is their sole focus. As it should be for us.

2. You don't need to "try" to be happy.

Children have a unique awareness of their feelings and rarely feel any insecurity or embarrassment in expressing them—whether that's through laughter, a tantrum, or just using their words. While there are obviously exceptions, generally children raised in a stable home environment are in tune with their emotions and don't try to invent or mimic feelings that don't exist. They're not trying to always be happy as adults often feel they must appear to be. This increased awareness and connectivity help them bounce back from daily stressors and challenges more easily than adults do as well.

3. Forgiveness should be easily and freely given.

Children forgive easily and swiftly. They don't harbor grudges, let issues fester, or ruminate on ways that they have been hurt or harmed. If they're unhappy with someone's behavior, they either voice their displeasure or act out against it (for better or for worse!). But regardless of their initial reaction, they almost immediately let go and move on from the situation. They don't harbor resentment in the same way adults do. It takes away the joy of the moment.

4. Life is better when you find your flow.

We've all seen children become so immersed in an activity or task that they can't even hear an adult talking to them. Kids delve into whatever they're doing with all their mind and all their heart. They don't censor themselves or worry about what's next. They experience this "flow" on a constant basis. This ability to fully engage in the present increases happiness exponentially. While we can't put all responsibility on hold as adults, it's incredibly important we find time to get lost in what we're doing and suck the juice, so to speak, out of enjoyable activities.

5. Hugs can cure anything.

Whether it's a fight with a friend, frustration in the sandbox, or a dropped ice cream cone, a hug always makes things better. It makes us feel safe, calm, and loved. We thrive on social support, and human touch is an important part of transmitting feelings of care and concern. Kids distribute hugs freely and earnestly and reap the benefits they provide. Making a habit of hugging your loved ones more often will only improve your quality of life, and that of the people around you.

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6. Empathy is always welcome.

Empathy is our ability to notice and interpret the needs and desires of other people. Research shows that children are born empathic. This innate response to the world is either strengthened or weakened based on our environments. Sadly, our world doesn't always reinforce empathy for adults. These characteristics often take a back seat to more self-centered motives, such as our drive for success or media and cultural pressures to fulfill our own needs before those of others. We should learn from our children when it comes to displaying empathy.

7. Life is a miraculous thing.

To children, the world is new and therefore exciting. Even the most seemingly mundane is magical. They greet their days with joy and a curious spirit, experiencing life like explorers. If adults were able to see through the eyes of a child, as if for the first time, things would be so much more enjoyable. There is beauty everywhere, even in the busyness, craziness, and hardship of life. There is always something to appreciate and marvel at. We just need to open our eyes and hearts.


Zelana Montminy

Dr. Zelana Montminy is a positive psychologist and health and wellness contributor to a variety of broadcast, digital and print media. She frequently speaks at conferences and various academic, business, and non-profit institutions, and is a member of the American Psychological Association and is a consultant for the Institute for Applied Positive Research. Dr. Montminy holds Masters and Doctorate degrees in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Health and a focus in Positive Psychology, and has a Certification in Nutrition. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two young children.


 
7 Steps to Take Care of Yourself…While Taking Care of Your Baby
 
Black and white photo of woman holding newborn
 
 

By Dr. Harvey Karp

Welcome to the wonderful - and often wearisome - world of motherhood!

If you’re feeling like you walked into the deep end of the pool, you’re not alone. For the first time in human history, parents are expected to take care of babies on their own. Up until about 100 years ago, most parents had 5 nannies…their moms, sisters, cousins, and neighbors. These helpers were at the ready - around the clock - to cook a meal, hold the baby or change a diaper. But nowadays, with families spread across the country, parents have no choice but to do it all on their own. Yikes! No wonder parents in modern, 2-earner families feel so overwhelmed.

Luckily, there are ways to look after your own health while protecting your baby’s well-being. Do it for yourself, but also do it for the little human who needs you at your best. Like they say in airplanes, “Put your oxygen mask on first.”

  1. Stick to the basics.

    It can feel overwhelming to be responsible for a new (little) life! But, assuming you are keeping your baby safe, fed and diapered - pat yourself on the back - you’re doing great! And if you’re able to get sleep, do baby yoga, take walks and keep the house sort of clean, you’re crushing it as a new parent. 

  2. Tend to your mutual needs.

    Two of the biggest new parent challenges are: calming crying and increasing sleep. They’re not just important for baby, they’re important for you too. They are a stress on babies and trigger anxiety and depression for new parents. A baby’s cries naturally make our hearts race, palms sweat and prompt feelings of anxiety, anger and a sense of failure. And, of course, it fractures a baby’s and parent’s sleep. Fortunately, baby calming is a whole lot easier once you learn the 5 S’s. This simple tool calms crying and boosts parent confidence and a glow of success.

  3. Get sleep.

    Exhaustion is arguably the #1 new parent stressor. It can lead to serious health risks, like postpartum depression/anxiety, breastfeeding failure, mastitis, marital conflict, weight struggles, car crashes and thousands of infant deaths from unsafe bed sharing and sofa sleeping. The great news is the 5 S’s can boost sleep for your baby…and you. It can also help if you play white noise, use blackout shades or blinds, use a blue light filter on your phone/computer, wear a sleep mask, drink calming mint or chamomile tea, and use soothing lavender oil to catch some Zzz’s.

  4. Don’t be shy - ask for help.

    Caring for a baby “takes a village.” Ask a friend or relative to come visit or even stay for a while (make sure it’s someone who will actually be helpful). Call a friend to walk the dog or stop by to hold the baby so you can take a shower, or even just chat. Isolation takes a mental toll. Get ahead of it, and create your support network now! Added bonus: if you have (or can make) a friend whose child is near your child’s age, reach out to them in particular. It is extra helpful to have someone to ask questions and to go through milestones with.

  5. Take a moment alone with your partner.

    If your in-laws or a babysitter is watching your child, use that time to be with your partner. Take a walk or even just plop down on the couch and connect. Check in with your partner and ask how they are doing. Make sure your partner knows that their feelings matter to you and invite them to share their challenges. Parenting as a team makes relationships stronger than ever!

  6. Lean on technology.

    Today, we have smart phones, smart cars, smart TV’s, and finally… now there are smart baby beds! SNOO Smart Sleeper uses womb-like sound and motion to add 1-2 (or more!) hours of sleep for babies and parents. It is also the only bed that keeps babies in the safe back position all night. So, in addition to getting the rest you need, you’ll have peace of mind that your baby is safe, which might help make it easier to fall asleep. Not everyone has lots of friends or family to ask for help, so SNOO can be a spare set of hands when two just isn’t enough. (Which pretty often, don’t you think?)

  7. Laugh.

    Poopy blowout? Get peed on? Spilled the milk? New parents have pretty much two choices for how to react:  laugh or cry. Sometimes you’ll cry. And that can be a much needed release. But it’s also normal to laugh a bit too loud (like someone who is a just on the edge of bonkers!). This, too, shall pass. And it will definitely make a good story one day! 


 
 
Dr. Karp.jpg

Dr. Harvey Karp is one of America's most-trusted pediatricians and child development experts. He is on the faculty of the USC School of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Karp practiced pediatrics in Los Angeles for over 25 years. His landmark discoveries and unique ability to translate complex science into effective techniques to empower parents have revolutionized our understanding of the needs of young children. He is the founder and CEO of Happiest Baby, a smart-tech and parenting solutions company.

 
How to Be a Mindful Mama and a Badass Go-Getter
 
Woman holding baby and looking out at view
 
 

By Lauren Gallagher Ph.D. &
Daya Alexander Grant Ph.D., M.S.

What happens when two mamas with PhDs and a love for sport psychology meet over green juice in NYC?  A conversation about ambitions and struggles, of course. But also a recognition that we can balance the gigantic mom role with the other parts of ourselves that make us whole. One of us is just beginning her mothering journey and the other is 19 years in.  As we chatted about life, kids, and our personal passions, we discovered that although this journey is a challenge, and regardless of where we are on the path, this experience is a shared one. So many of us question our ability to maintain presence in our roles as mamas while still preserving our unique identity and pursuing our career dreams. Here are three tips on embracing the grind and absorbing the power that results from being both a mindful mama and a badass go getter!

Push. Surrender. Repeat. 

While this certainly applies to labor, this message is imperative for continuing to make progress in your career, without losing your mind. Research has shown that alternating between deep work (pushing) and cognitive rest from that activity (surrendering) may help the brain develop creative solutions to problems [reference].

Our mind is still working and thinking about what we immersed ourselves in even if we are not presently focused on it. This is good news for us go get ‘em moms who don’t get those huge chunks of time anymore. For optimal productivity, alternate between 60-90 minutes of full immersion in a task before taking a cognitive break. This time frame lends itself nicely to laser focus during nap time or school hours followed by a “break” to be completely present when the children are around. That full immersion in activities with our children is critical to being a mindful mama. 

Research has shown that alternating between deep work (pushing) and cognitive rest from that activity (surrendering) may help the brain develop creative solutions to problems.

The push and surrender pattern can also be applied at the macro level. You may have a month where you have the bandwidth and creative flow to move projects forward. Excellent! Enjoy that! But then, you may hit a plateau. That’s OK. Instead of swimming against the current, let it be easy and surrender to what is, trusting that another breakthrough is in the pipeline. All in all, recognize that inching forward is still progress.

Lauren.JPG

Sweat once a day

You know the research. Exercise is good for you. Period. It’s good for your body and your brain. Find the time to get the blood pumping - whether you walk, run, spin, hike, go to the gym, or take a class.  Move regularly and you will notice your energy levels elevate and your cognition sharpen.

Move regularly and you will notice your energy levels elevate and your cognition sharpen.

Some days will be tough. We get it. Move anyway. Other days it’ll be downright impossible to get a full workout in. On those days, commit 10 minute to something - a brisk walk outside or a mini-circuit of squats, plank, and burpees (yep) at home. That’s it. And there’s always the jogging stroller! Your endorphins will ensure that you never regret a workout.

Take time to think

It took me a year to figure out that one of the reasons I was so drained was because I’m a textbook introvert. I need silence to survive. And here I was - a stay at home mom with a permanent buddy who wasn’t exactly silent. I found myself telling people “I just need time to think!”

It took me a year to figure out that one of the reasons I was so drained was because I’m a textbook introvert.

Two years in, I realized that for me, the sweetest moments of silence can be found in the early morning hours. I joined the 5am club and committed those first two hours of the day to any combination of meditation, yoga, and exercise. But if evenings are your jam, make that your quiet time.

You can also take mini vacations throughout the day. Light a candle and pick up the nearest book. Ten minutes of meditation, quiet reflection, listening to music or reading something that interests you while you drinking your coffee or tea can go a long way in providing the self-care you need to recharge your batteries.


Lauren Gallagher, Ph.D., is a school psychologist, author, public speaker, and mama to two teenagers. She recently co-authored her first children's book, The Hard Hat for Kids, with Jon Gordon - a story about being a great teammate. She has a private practice where she works with young people to help them discover their unique passion and purpose so they can lead their very best life.

Find Lauren on her personal Instagram, syncitupsports Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Daya Alexander Grant, Ph.D., M.S., is a mental strength coach, yoga teacher, and mama to a two year old. In her private practice, she empowers athletes to connect to their greatness, crush their goals, and know fulfillment in the pursuit.

Find Daya on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

 
Navigating Through Fog: Managing Maternal Self-Doubt
 
Photo courtesy of @mamanielaco

Photo courtesy of @mamanielaco

 
 

By Alexis Gantsoudes

Most of the beautiful, choir-resounding moments of parenting seem to fall into two categories.

In the first, we sense the need of a child that we can meet comfortably, we step up to the plate, fulfill that need with ease, and watch the resulting relief or satisfaction in our child. YES! The warmth that spreads across our chests adds an extra layer of assurance that we have done the right thing.

In the second category, we are mere witnesses as one (or more) of our children embodies our values, demonstrating right before our eyes that they are really and truly absorbing one of the tenets that we are working so hard to instill: a boy hugs his little sister, creating a moment of mutual delight between two of your favorite people! A little girl rushes ahead to hold the door for a stranger! A little gentleman accepts responsibility for a mistake and offers a sincere apology! A son comforts his sister in a way only he can when his sibling has had a rough day!

In the moments that delightfully and simply fall into either of the above categories, parenting is aligned with what many of us likely imagined before we became parents. If we work hard, feel pretty good about our values, and we care so very much about our kids and their well-being, we should get to feel pretty good about ourselves on the daily, no?

If we work hard, feel pretty good about our values, and we care so very much about our kids and their well-being, we should get to feel pretty good about ourselves on the daily, no?

In what might seem like a cruel joke for the sleep-deprived attendants to an endless vacuum of needs, parenting really appears to be anything but linear. If only it came with an annual report card that acknowledged the seventy-two miniature acts of heroism performed each day and then highlighted in the “comments” section that all of these daily hard-won miracles are in fact keeping you on track to nurture a healthy, well-adjusted, self-supporting, compassionate and hard-working person.  

In reality, parenthood doesn’t come with a black and white rubric of reassurance but rather often presents itself as a series of shape-shifting riddles. We know where we want our children to end up, but the question is: are our daily decisions guiding us towards--or derailing us from--our desired destination, and how in the world can we tell in the moment?

For example, a parent might wonder when her first grader comes home deflated by her peers’ rough behavior--was her decision to prioritize kindness and manners in her household during the preschool years a misguided effort? When we sense between the lines that a teacher is missing part of the picture in managing our child’s emotional or academic needs, is it an opportunity for building resilience or time to be an advocate? Do we embrace a child to make her feel safe through whatever today’s bump may be or are we supposed to gently nudge her forward, indicating that we have faith in her ability to manage it herself? If you dare go hunting for an answer to these riddles on the internet or in a book, you will find such an array of conflicting answers that your confusion will likely blossom into bewilderment.

We know where we want our children to end up, but the question is: are our daily decisions guiding us towards—or derailing us from—our desired destination, and how in the world can we tell in the moment?

When so many of our strengths as adults are accumulated triumphs over adversities and struggles, how do we create strength and resilience in our children without betraying our instinct to protect them or infringing on their developing autonomy? We all want to support, shape, and guide our children so they will one day make the “right” decisions when we are not standing next to them, but whether that means stepping in or stepping back from today’s particular problem can sometimes seem a hazy query at best. The self-doubt that can creep in at these moments further undermines our ability to make a choice with confidence.

When so many of our strengths as adults are accumulated triumphs over adversities and struggles, how do we create strength and resilience in our children without betraying our instinct to protect them or infringing on their developing autonomy?

In my mind, each of these pending decisions has a range of possible answers that falls on a spectrum. I think we are all willing to engage with any of the options on that spectrum--mothers are not short on will or determination when it comes to their children--but that determination is not helping us choose which approach is most helpful for whatever is today’s particular parenting conundrum. After years of encounters with these moments, I am no closer to a salient answer or a full-proof solution, but I have noticed one peculiarity in the vacillation between confusion and clarity: my internal compass can be easier to read in periods of relatively significant stress.

When I was moving my kids across the country for the second time in thirteen months, I felt much more secure in my daily parenting decisions and much more in-tune with my children’s true needs. Of course this security was against a backdrop of raw exhaustion, poor self-care and an otherwise unsettled mind, but the clarity was tangible--and frankly, a much-needed slice of relief in a long string of challenging events. My best attempt at understanding this fog-clearing period (and others like it) is that all the layers of noise that we live under on a regular basis are cleared by a bigger, priority-shifting event.

When I was visibly in the middle of a scenario that required most of my resources, I felt I had “permission” to put my blinders on, put my head down, and put parenting and my children’s adjustment first. While in this posture, I simply did not have the resources to fret about so many things that swirl around in my mind in more settled times: am I doing my part in my community, in my extended family, for my friends? Should my kids be enrolled in certain activities? Am I feeding them as well as I should? The way I measured myself was kinder and more aligned with my children’s absolute needs, not those that are manufactured by our culture or by our minds when we compare ourselves to others. The very idea that there was a “correct” way I should be doing things didn’t have room to take root in my mind.

But how do we give ourselves occasional space from the ever-present rabbit hole of needs and expectations beyond those of our children without having to go through significantly stressful life transitions? Speaking as someone who hasn’t achieved this maternal nirvana but is always seeking it as a source of relief from periodically stifling self-doubt, I have a hunch that a constructive step forward is to set a personal bar of “enough”--to focus on the effort rather than the product, just as we are taught to do for our kids, especially when that feeling of “right” or “enough” feels the most elusive. When I hear the familiar refrain of “I’m getting this wrong” in my own mind or from the lips of a fellow mama-soldier, I am trying to engage my “enough” mantra: “Just seeing my kids as they are right now, as individuals separate from myself, and trying to meet them there as best I can, is a win.”

I have a hunch that a constructive step forward is to set a personal bar of “enough”—to focus on the effort rather than the product, just as we are taught to do for our kids, especially when that feeling of “right” or “enough” feels the most elusive.

Fog is disorienting and renders otherwise accurate navigational tools useless. But if sailors don’t view themselves as failures when clouds settle around them, why are mothers so quick to fault themselves for the parenting equivalent? The fog just is. It comes with the territory of earnest parenting. Recalibrating our expectations of ourselves in these moments is no different than following the beacon of a lighthouse--both function as anchoring life-lines in bewildering moments. To be sure, it is easier to spot a light on the horizon than within the churning sea of thoughts in our own minds, but if we value our effort and our dedication first and foremost--and maybe even have an “enough” mantra at the ready--we are modeling the kind of self-care that we hope our children will practice one day.

 
Baby Not Sleeping Through the Night? Read This.
Baby leaning against the bed
 

By Totum Founder, Erin Erenberg

Mama always said, “life’s not worth living without a good night’s sleep.”

And, boy, did I hear that over and over in my head this past year, while taking a laissez-baby approach to sleep learning.  Although I’d trained our two bigger kids to sleep through the night at 3 and 5 months, I reasoned that it was too hard to sleep train Beau because we’d moved. I worried that any cry-it-out method would wake his older siblings. And let’s be real: I hated the idea of him crying. So I hoped that I could enjoy all the snuggles and sweetness of nursing him to sleep while his sleep routine naturally fell into place when we settled into our new home.

Ha, yeah right. I was suffering terribly, and I noticed that happy little Beau was cranky and agitated. It appears that unlike some other rites of motherhood that have fallen into place for me when I allow instinct to guide, sleep doesn’t work that way for us. For all three of our kids, I have needed to get serious about sleep training in order to reclaim my sanity and help our kids get the sleep they need for their growth, development and wellness.

For all three of our kids, I have needed to get serious about sleep training in order to reclaim my sanity and help our kids get the sleep they need for their growth, development and wellness.

With George (6) and Arabella (4), I used the Sleepeasy Solution (modified cry-it-out to teach self-soothing), and it worked beautifully. But since I’d broken all the big rules of that method for 12 months (feeding baby to sleep, putting him down asleep, rushing in to help him when he cried, starting sleep training too late) I decided to try a new approach. When I saw that Dream Baby Sleep was offering free 15-minute consults, I figured I had nothing to lose.

What I learned was truly life changing. I’m so excited to share it with you in case it rescues you as it did me. So here’s what I learned, in a nutshell:

  1. Move to an earlier bedtime for the baby. My routine had been to bathe all three of the kids at the same time, after dinner, around 6:30. They got PJ’d, lotioned, and hair/teeth-brushed in a line-up, and then George and Arabella were allowed 20-30 minutes of a movie while I put Beau down around 7PM. Erin at Dreambaby suggested I put Beau down no later than 6:30. Now I put him down between 5:45-6:30 PM. The early end of that spectrum is best if he skips his last nap or doesn’t have great daytime sleep. Not only has this been effective for Beau, but it’s also allowed me to have better quality time with the older kids in their last half-hour before bedtime.

  2. Separate the feed from the bedtime routine. Because I’m a rule-following kind of gal, I literally started doing Beau’s nighttime feed outside his bedroom and only move to his bedroom when it’s game-time.

  3. Keep the nighttime routine very short (15 minutes). After dinner, bath, PJs and final feed, next comes the real magic -- the tight and consistent bedtime routine. What works for us is this: Beau waves night-night to his siblings; we enter his room; we turn on the sound machine, turn down the blackout blinds (yes, you need these! Or a black garbage bag! Or these!); sit in the rocking chair; zip on the sleep sack; read one book; turn off the light; and then say good night.

  4. Put him down calm but awake. If Beau’s not calm after the book, I’ll rock him for as long as it takes me to sing two bars of a song and say a prayer with him. I only stand up to put him into his crib once I feel his little heartbeat slowing slightly. Calm is the key, but don’t let the baby fall asleep in your arms.

  5. The goodnight “mantra.” This seems simple but makes a big difference for mommy and baby. As I put Beau down in his crib, I say to him, “Night-night, Beau. It’s time for sleeping.  Mommy loves you.” Then I lie him down, calm but awake, and exit the room. The End!

Remarkably, just by following these tips, Beau started sleeping through the night in 2 nights! The first night, he cried for about 20 minutes, and I went in and checked on him 10 minutes into that cry. I didn’t touch him, just kept my calm and told him that I was right outside and he was learning to sleep on his own. The Dream Baby crew offers a number of different approaches to working through tears when babies are learning to sleep. Crying-it-out with check-ins works best for me because of Beau’s temperament and my cry tolerance. I love, though, that they offer a range of options for moms and babies so that you don’t feel lost if you don’t have the heart to hear your baby wail and baby’s not surrendering easily to rest.  

There were a few nights in the past few weeks when Beau woke up, teething. One night, I caved and brought him into bed to nurse. I felt worried about that, but I went back to our game plan the following night. And it all snapped back into place beautifully.

I’m a big believer in following your maternal instincts. But if sleep isn’t falling into place for you without some work, give these tips a try and definitely check out Dream Baby Sleep. They offer consults, sleep plans, and private Facebook Live events. I’ve found their approach completely non-judgmental, caring and EFFECTIVE!  

Hope this helps you have day after day of love and light, thanks to a good night’s sleep for you and your babies.

Dreamily,

Erin

 
Can I Schedule Time for Being Sad?
Photo by  @juliahirsch_  via  @mothermag
 

By Totum Founder, Erin Erenberg

We’ve all heard the cliches about moms putting everyone else first, forgetting themselves, being caught up in the many “thankless” tasks, logistics, and concerns of daily mothering. This usually presents itself as sacrifices in hygiene -- bad food, no sleep, no bra, no using the restroom without a tiny companion.

For me, putting myself last more often looks like appearing to “have it all together” for the sake of our kids’ sense of comfort and wellbeing. The real me lets it all out, with plenty of tears and talk, when things aren’t working. But lately I either (a) have a constant tiny audience or (b) am jamming through work-related tasks while paying someone to help me with the baby. There is no time block for letting it out, alone.

For me, putting myself last more often looks like appearing to “have it all together” for the sake of our kids’ sense of comfort and wellbeing.

Most of us know someone who’s crippled by anxiety because his/her mom didn’t create a sense of wellbeing and safety in the home. I think I’m really worried about this for my kids because my parents did create a sense of safety and security, and the beauty of that gift has yielded returns well into my adulthood. I want to provide a similar sense for our kids. I want to put my positive role models to work.

So, because I don’t want George (6) and Arabella (4) to be anxious adults, I do things like turning on upbeat music and presenting a mellow outlook if we run dangerously late for drop off.  I try to avoid arguing in front of them or double-back and talk through it when I lose my temper in their presence. But the downside is that I’m so focused on attuning to their ups and downs that I shove my feelings down where I think my kids can’t see them.  The fallacy is not lost on me, but I’m trying my best.  

But the downside is that I’m so focused on attuning to their ups and downs that I shove my feelings down where I think my kids can’t see them.

And lately I’m not actually “ok.” You see, two of my very closest friends in the whole world -- Robin and Wendy -- have gone through mastectomies in the last 8 months.  Just before turning 40. And until yesterday, I hadn’t even cried.

When living in Los Angeles, I heard so many people use the phrase “holding space,” and I didn’t know what that really meant until now. It seemed vaguely woo-woo and eye-roll. But for me, over the past months, it’s meant that I have this big, gaping morass of fear, hope, pain, loss, confusion, bewilderment, shock, disillusionment and love that I hold for two friends who are part of my soul.

I still see my friends Robin and Wendy in their late teens. Their beauty, vitality, brilliance, wit, grace and strength is irreplaceable and ageless. They’ve got smiles that make your heart dance, each a wicked sense of humor, and so loyal that I’ve never once questioned where I stand. They each have two boys. We all went to the same college but now live in 3 different countries. Despite distance and time, these girls are in my mind and heart every hour.  

And this year, they each faced down breast cancer and feared for their lives.

Two days ago, on a Saturday, I sat with my coffee, in my robe, and just completely broke down. The tears wouldn’t stop. At first, our kids were stunned, and then ran over to me and held me, telling me it would be okay. As most moms do, I immediately felt a flood of worry and shame about losing my cool in front of my kids. But instead of pretending, I let it go.

Two days ago, on a Saturday, I sat with my coffee, in my robe, and just completely broke down. The tears wouldn’t stop.

Then I tried to convey my feelings with words they might understand. I told them that I was really sad for my friend. That my friend Robin was having a scary surgery in the hospital that day, and that I felt helpless in saving my friend from big feelings and scary thoughts. I told them that I was okay but that sometimes when we love our friends so much, it makes us cry when we know they are in pain.

There have been a lot of things happening in our lives in the past year -- new baby, new business, new home (to name a few). Meanwhile, there are major emotional realities at play for me that have nothing to do with my daily (pre)occupations. And one big one is grappling with two of my closest friends facing down cancer before turning 40.

Funny enough, my friend Robin is a brilliant doctor and is convinced that her diagnosis has something to do with some major losses in her life, both of which she feels she didn’t fully process.  And Wendy faced horrible unexpected loss a few times in the last decade as well.

So in the spirit of facing pain head on, I’m sharing this with all of you. I don’t really have the answer to the question of how to feel and process painful adult realities when you’ve got a constant tiny audience. But I know that I need more friendship and understanding to work through it in a healthy way. So thank you for letting me share this with you. Thank you for “holding space” for me.

I’d love to hear from you about how you process your pain while prioritizing your babies.  And I’d love to hear tips on how to best support friends going through breast cancer.

In this together,

Erin

 
The Bittersweet Wonder of Watching Your Kids Become More Independent
 
Boy on the back of his sister, playing in the grass
 
 

By Alexis Gantsoudes

Almost daily, when a blurry moment of parenting kids who are in 3rd, 6th and 8th grades subsides into a fleeting pause, I am struck with a sense of wonder.

This wonder is different from the universal kind I felt when watching each of my babies do something for the first time or discover something about themselves or the world around them; it is the kind you might feel in a crowded public place when you’ve lost your people--in the world before you could use a cellphone to find them. This sneaky and persistent feeling comes from finding myself undeniably and squarely in the middle of the the first phase of parenting, meaning the phase where the kids live at home, under our wings and under our roofs.

This summer, I watched from my car at a stoplight as a mom waiting at the edge of the crosswalk with her child kneeled to tie a sweatshirt around her waist. I suddenly realized that none of my children needs me to do that sort of thing for them anymore--the sort of thing that once filled up my entire day: putting on shoes, cutting up fruit, washing hair, or making a lunch. I find myself being wistful for my preschool-aged buddies who accompanied me on the sometimes drab daily tasks of life. Waiting in line at the post office with a toddler can be exhausting, but it also brings with it the possibility of the unexpected. Sweet moments are everywhere and always possible when you’re literally attached to someone who still inhabits his own little world.

I suddenly realized that none of my children needs me to do that sort of thing for them anymore—the sort of thing that once filled up my entire day: putting on shoes, cutting up fruit, washing hair, or making a lunch.

I will be the first to admit as someone who was at home with my kids while my husband traveled endlessly and family lived airplane flights away, that I regularly fantasized about reclaiming my independence for just the briefest moments when my children were younger. Going for a run without a double stroller--liberating! Driving to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription without buckling three car seats--as indulgent as a massage! Doing any daily task that moms do in an endless cycle without strategizing about food, sleep, thwarting temptations and meltdowns seemed a milestone that was far away and the stuff of dreams to my tired, weary body.

But somewhere between waiting for my youngest to drop his nap so we could be more footloose as a family and living every day in the details, I lost track of time. While the kids seem to need me as much as ever, they need me more intensely and for fewer minutes a day. This has created an “on-call” role that I never imagined when I thought of being a parent and has disrupted my sense of self as a mother. The busyness that so completely overfilled my world with younger children comes now in unpredictable fits and starts, and in many ways, I feel as new to the job as I did when my firstborn was an infant.

While the kids seem to need me as much as ever, they need me more intensely and for fewer minutes a day.

It is not my personality to just let go--to just experience things without analyzing them or trying to understand their role in a greater path that I am trying to follow. However, during those moments of wonder that bubble to the surface so often, I feel the bittersweet call to take a step back, and to allow my presence to be felt more in my kids’ minds as they make a decision than in my deeds. This is all quiet, mental work, but it requires a deceptive amount of effort, awareness and self-restraint. It also requires the bittersweet acknowledgement of another unanticipated parental shift.

I feel the bittersweet call to take a step back, and to allow my presence to be felt more in my kids’ minds as they make a decision than in my deeds

My youngest, who is prone to worry, preferred to be physically close to me as a preschooler and in his early elementary years. When I was encouraging him to venture from my side to do what he wished without me, such as get a drink from the water fountain across a waiting room, I would tell him that we were connected by a stretchy-string--that he could go and get the drink while still being connected to me. My world now feels like a web of endless stretchy-strings. As each of my children ventures towards something new--walking to town with a friend, walking alone around the corner to play soccer with neighborhood kids, staying up late at a friend’s house for a sleepover--I feel the same cocktail of pride, worry, and love I felt as I sent my son to the water fountain. Just as much, though, I feel the need to accept my ever-shifting role and perhaps even celebrate the way in which mothering reinvents us over and over again.

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At Christmas My Mom Was a Cross Between Martha Stewart and Bob Vila. I Can't Be That Mom But I Can Do This.
 
Little boy lighting Christmas candles
 
 

By Erin Erenberg, Totum Founder

Originally published on Fox News.

I was raised by the ultimate “Pinterest mom.” She made icing-bedecked one of a kind homemade gingerbread men when it was my turn to bring cookies to school and still makes our three kids individually themed Christmas trees each year. She’s Martha Stewart meets Bob Vila, and the care she puts into what she makes has always made us feel special.

But I’m not that mom. While I enjoy putting creativity into meals or the occasional craft, if I put too many projects on my plate at the holidays, I become the person I loathed growing up: someone who dreads Christmas. These days, between multiple holiday shows, sports obligations, school-sponsored Thanksgiving feasts, holiday cards, gift-buying and documenting every minute on social media, it’s easy for moms to feel overwhelmed and lesser-than, all of which has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas.

“It’s easy for moms to feel overwhelmed and lesser-than, all of which has nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas.”

So instead of losing the joy to the pressures of modern momming, I’ve decided to strip down to the essentials with a focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Here are three things we’re being sure to check off our list this Christmas season. The rest is just icing on the gingerbread man.

1. Gather to read the Bible’s account of the first Christmas.

My dad always did this with us on Christmas Eve, often gathered by the fire and after an evening church service. It’s a lovely way to cut through the noise, spend time together, and remember why we’re celebrating in the first place.

Here are our family favorite verses, as selected by my dad:

Luke 2:1-21 (The Shepherds’ Story)

Luke 1: 26-31 (Mary Hears the News)

Matthew 1: 18-25 (Joseph Hears the News)

Matthew 2: 12 (Wise Men Story)

It’s great to highlight the wise men and their offerings so that kids realize there is a history behind the gift-giving at Christmas. Some other cultures, such as those in Latin America, do a better job at tying traditions back to the story of the first Christmas. See, for example, Las Posadas, a nine-day long nativity celebration meant to represent the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.

2. Sponsor another family’s Christmas

We did this when I was little, and I remember it so clearly. My parents got wish lists from our local Salvation Army and chose a family with kids roughly the ages of my sister and I. I can still see the racks of clothes and the wishlist in my hands. I was so concerned that there were kids who didn’t have enough food and clothing, let alone gifts on Christmas morning. A deep sense of gratitude, concern and awareness of privilege and disparity moved me, and I was energized by the idea that I could do something to help. That sense has remained with me into adulthood.

Every region has local charities who can help with the logistics of giving to families in need. It’s well worth it to connect with one in your area and “adopt” a family or a child for Christmas.   The process of taking time away from ourselves and standing in another family’s shoes steers us away from the temptation toward greed and consumption this season and fosters meaningful conversations with our little ones. More to the point: it’s just the right thing to do to give to someone who is in need, especially during a time that’s all about giving and receiving.

3. Sibling gift exchange

Our 6-year-old little boy and 4-year-old girl argue too much. Christmas seems like the perfect time to remind them that our family is in our lives so that we can support, acknowledge and learn from each other.

“Christmas seems like the perfect time to remind them that our family is in our lives so that we can support, acknowledge and learn from each other.”

This year we’re encouraging them to think about what their sister/brother would enjoy and dip into their piggy banks to buy a gift for their sibling.  Sure, there are wonderful lessons about math and commerce, but most important to me is that they learn that the purpose of a gift is to show someone you have thought about them, notice what they like, and give up something of yours to communicate your love. It’s also a welcome shift from the rivalry and bickering that’s so frustrating but natural in kids close together in age.

Overall, I find that when I’m able to cut through the potential to keep busy this season and focus on a few valuable opportunities to grow together, we all experience more joy.

We’d love to hear about your honored family traditions. Merry Christmas!

 
Learning How to Love Your Body Right After You Have Your Baby and Always
Mom hugging two daughters on couch Credit: Hylah Hedgepeth
 

By Stephanie Boxerbaum

Stephanie is an entertainment attorney and founding partner of Box Counsel. She is also the creator of The High Vibe Secret Society, a lifestyle brand for the business minded and wellness driven woman. You can check out her Facebook group here.

I remember calling my dietician right after having my first baby and asking whether I was “supposed to be” on a diet. By “right after” having my baby, I literally mean about three weeks into the whole thing. After all, there is no shortage of pre-baby/post-baby Instagram pictures with sometimes almost unbelievable comparisons or ads telling you how to “get your body back” knocking at your door. Lucky for me, my dietician knew the right things to say.

You see, I had an eating disorder years ago. Despite the fact that I was an attorney with a busy life living in Los Angeles, SO much of my energy was spent on food/workouts. Determined not to screw up my soon to be born children (and I had not even met my husband yet either!), I reached a point where I knew I needed to get help to address my issues around food. How could I bring new people into the world with the desire to guide them to the best of my ability when I thought eating a few cheerios for lunch seemed like a good idea?

After years of work on myself and these issues (of course meeting my husband in the process), I knew I was in the right headspace to have a baby and could support the idea that while my body would need to expand during pregnancy, I would be able to eventually and naturally “get my body back”. I had to feel comfortable eating more calories and knowing that my mission was to support this loving being growing inside of me. It felt uncomfortable but there was no way I was going to let my fear of how my body would look stop me from having a baby. When she arrived, I still remember after the C-section thinking that now was the time for me to really put all of my hard work into action and love my body no matter what.

After all, there is no shortage of pre-baby/post-baby Instagram pictures with sometimes almost unbelievable comparisons or ads telling you how to “get your body back” knocking at your door.

I felt truly blessed and so appreciative when my daughter was born (after 27 hours of labor!).  However, even with all of the work I had done to prepare for my post baby body’s arrival, I had my doubts. When I called my dietician that day, the answer was simple. No amount of dieting a few weeks out from having a baby would do anything except put my body in a state of deprivation (which no one needs when there is plenty of sleep deprivation happening already). My mind was in no kind of place a new mom’s needs to be. She helped to put me at ease and gave the gentle reminder that being in a state of nurturing, self-compassion and love – which is what ALL women need right after they have a baby - was the path to re-discover in my motherhood journey. I loved the reminder and really put into action true routines of self-care. 

After having my second daughter, the path was even easier to follow and truly, I want my daughters to love and honor their bodies. The messages they receive on these topics all start with me (and my husband) so I remind myself of that whenever necessary! I hear women stress all the time about their bodies, foods that they shouldn’t be eating especially around the post baby timing and while sometimes they are sarcastic (e.g., I already had my baby and still look three months pregnant), under the sarcasm typically is pain and/or shame. 

Being in a state of nurturing, self-compassion and love – which is what ALL women need right after they have a baby - was the path to re-discover in my motherhood journey.

ALL women deserve to be reminded to appreciate their body day in and day out. I am all for eating healthy and working out, mainly so you can put your energy into areas of your life you truly enjoy – especially like bonding with your baby! I call it living life from a high vibe perspective. Maximizing all of your energy to keep you in your flow. 

Many people talk about how it takes 9 months to have a baby and you should expect it to take that long (or longer) to get your body back. I would like to throw out the idea that maybe it isn’t about “getting your body back” but more that the focus is spent honoring and appreciating your body. Listening. Nurturing. Focusing on health and not listening to the inner critic inside that jumps out from time to time. Having a baby is a beautiful gift and if food and/or body image thoughts are running a little too rampant in your mind, there are people you can see to talk about it. I am here to give recommendations anytime! 

Just some tips to keep handy: 

  • If you aren’t fitting into your clothes, buy clothes that do fit. It will make you feel better instead of cringing every time you go into your closet. Body acceptance takes time and doesn’t mean that you just give up. It just means you can love yourself and appreciate everything you did to have a baby while your body finds itself again.

  • Snacks and more snacks. As new moms, we are busy, tired, busy again and then even more tired again. Have healthy snacks on hand at all times. Foods that fuel you and you can grab quickly – and foods that you love. If you don’t like carrot sticks, take those off the list! 

  • Love and more love. Every time that voice creeps in – the way your stomach looks, the way your boobs look, if your pants feel tight, whatever it is…shift toward love. You have everything to be proud of so march that body around and own its beauty!! 

  • Think high vibe thoughts. This may sound a little airy-fairy BUT…when you start questioning your body, how you look…literally tap back into your high vibe self. The part of you that honors everything, believes in everything and is just as beautiful as the new baby that has arrived in your life. You just brought ANOTHER HUMAN BEING into the world! If that isn’t high vibe, I don’t know what is! Don’t let any negativity bring you down, ever!

I would like to throw out the idea that maybe it isn’t about “getting your body back” but more that the focus is spent honoring and appreciating your body.

I wish so much love to anyone who is experiencing the joys of motherhood. If you looked in the mirror today to only think your dieting should kick in, let this be a gentle reminder that you are already amazing just as you are, no dieting necessary.

 
Move over Black Friday. Give it up for Cyber Mom-Day!
 
My mom and sister hitting Cyber Monday hard last year, days after I gave birth to our third baby, Beau.

My mom and sister hitting Cyber Monday hard last year, days after I gave birth to our third baby, Beau.

 
 

By Erin Erenberg, Totum Founder

Originally published on Fox News.

We had a family tradition around Black Friday when I was young. With our cousins in town for Thanksgiving, my mom would load us into the car to head to the “big city” of Columbus, Ohio.

We shifted into the Christmas spirit while checking loved ones off our gift lists. Some of my favorite childhood memories were made on this day, amid twinkling street lights, looping holiday anthems, and commiserating, bag-laden dads camped out in the pit of City Center Mall.  Between stores, we’d make a detour to the suburb of Dublin to sip glogg while my mom drank in inspiration for that year’s tree.  It was crisp, cozy, wintery, idyllic Christmas bliss. But those were slower times, decades before shop.org handed us “Cyber Monday” in 2005.

Now that I’m the mom and we have three little ones, I’d rather avoid the manufactured urgency of Black Friday and take time to enjoy making holiday traditions that don’t center around buying.  But don’t get me wrong: I still love to get and give gifts.  So it was last year, when I gave birth to our third baby two days before Thanksgiving, that I learned the true beauty of Cyber Monday for mothers.

This year, instead of falling for the tempting promotional emails and Instagram ads that seem to know my every thought, I’ve been taking a minute to keep a list of all the retailers or manufacturers who are tempting me. Beside their name, I list the items I’d like to purchase, and for whom. My plan is to go online on Black Friday to see if there are deals on the things I’ve listed. If so, I’ll make the purchase then. If not, I’ll wait for Cyber Monday.

To all my busy moms out there, here are my top ten favorite things about Cyber Monday.

1. I can shop in sweats and no makeup, while using the loo if so inclined.

2. It can be a team sport. My mom, sister and I shopped together using our own laptops at my dining room table last year, and it was really fun.  We called out good deals to one another, gasped when we saw something we wanted, and made purchases for one another without having to hide the evidence.

3. There are no (visible) crowds.

4. Ditto no pushy sales people.

5. My stroller isn’t in anyone’s way.

6. I don’t have to repeat “look with your eyes” to my children roughly 5,249 times per store.

7. We can access every store around the world without spending a dime on gas or worrying about our carbon footprint.

8. I MAKE BAD SHOPPING DECISIONS IN REAL LIFE SINCE BECOMING A MOM! Truly, I either break the bank or leave with nothing. I don’t think straight about purchases when I’m more worried about whether my child is going to touch something made of glass.

9. It seems like the deals are better. I’ve found that many stores will allow stacked discounts and promotions, often with free shipping.

10.  The gifts can be shipped directly to the recipient and to where you’re celebrating the holidays. This not only saves money but (more importantly for me) also the opportunity costs associated with the time and risk of shipping gifts yourself.  If the retailer misses the Christmas deadline, you’ll wind up with a refund and maybe some future discount codes. That’s a lot better than what happened when I tried to ship all my gifts from California to Ohio, only to find out that they were misrouted to Milwaukee and lost until Easter. #neveragain

Here’s to helping you maximize your time and budget this holiday (but hands-off the Anine Bing bag in my shopping cart on November 26.)

See you online,

Erin

 
Six Time Saving Beauty Tips For Moms
Woman applying facemask
 

By Candice Peroli Cortes

Candice Peroli Cortes is an aesthetician specializing in brows and lashes, semi-permanent makeup and tattoo removal. She's also a mother of two who runs several businesses. Candice knows that moms need to feel like their best selves, but have limited time (and concern) for spending hours in front of a mirror. Here Candice gives us some of her top tips and products for how to look your best, even in a hurry.


As a busy mom, wife, and business owner, I struggle with finding a few minutes of me time every day! With the responsibilities of taking care of the kids, the household, and my business, it’s a constant rush to get things done. It is essential to carve out some time to give yourself a little TLC.

Feeling good about yourself is not a luxury; it’s an absolute necessity that will give you the energy and enthusiasm to keep up. In honor of all my fellow busy ladies, I am so excited to share my top six time-saving tips and products to help you stay beautiful, polished, and ready to take on life’s daily challenges while looking and feeling great!

1. Exfoliate

Our skin is naturally, and constantly, shedding its own dead cells. When these dead cells are shed, they sit on the surface of our skin, ready to be swept away. If they don’t, they can get caught in our skin’s natural oil and clog our pores, leading to blackheads and whiteheads. Worse, if bacteria finds these dead cells and sebum, our pores can become infected, and this is when inflammatory acne forms. One of my absolute favs is M3 Naturals Activated Charcoal Scrub.  If you are looking for a flawless complexion the natural way, this is it!

 
 

Try M3 Naturals Charcoal Scrub


2. SPF

I am always stressing the importance of SPF to everyone I come in contact with! Yes, really!  I have had basal cell carcinoma three times. You must protect your skin from sun damage and skin cancer.  Opt for an SPF that contains zinc oxide, such as Drunk Elephant Umbra™ Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30. Drunk Elephant strives to use only clean ingredients too!

 
 

Try Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense Broad Spectrum Sunscreen SPF 30


3. Moisturize/Treat

Day and Night, after I cleanse my face I ALWAYS apply Amalie Beauty’s Shine Organic Brightening Oil. The heavenly scent of jasmine scent is what first sold me.  It adds a super concentrated amount of hydration, brightening and helps to correct fine lines and sun spots. I love this product so much I even include it into my dermaplaning treatments at my office! My clients are just as obsessed!

 
 

Try Amalie Beauty Shine Organic Brightening Oil


4. CC Creams

OK, I wear this every day! It Cosmetics Your Skin but Better CC Cream With SPF 50+. See SPF for the win!  It provides heavier coverage than your average CC cream, but doubles as an anti-aging serum thanks to peptides, niacin, vitamins A, C, B, and E, and hyaluronic acid. It Cosmetics also expanded their shade collection earlier this year.

Try It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC Cream with SPF 50+

4. Cleansers

Girl, you better wash your face! Especially before going to bed! Going to sleep with your makeup on continuously will age you faster. Everyone’s skin care needs (and reactions) are different, so be sure to consult with you dermatologist as to which cleanser might be best for you. My skin needs tend to change like the weather so I try to use mild cleansers like Mario Badescu Glycolic Foaming Cleanser and Julep Love Your Bare Face Hydrating Cleansing Oil.

5. Hair Care

Gone are the days of showering when I want. Well that’s my current situation right now with two kids under 4! I think I have tried just about every dry shampoo out there, but it’s not one-size-fits-all. Once you find the right formula for you, it’s real game changer. For extra volume, fluff your locks with the hairdryer and a round brush for a couple of minutes.

*Note: dry conditioner is a fun added bonus and I am loving it!

Try UrbanFitCo. Day Two Dry Shampoo

6. Wipes

When I am pressed for time or traveling for work, beauty wipes are a lifesaver!

Makeup remover wipes can be thrown into your purse, placed in your bedside drawer, or even in your travel bag to be used virtually anywhere, anytime. These shouldn’t replace your cleansing routine but are perfect for days when you have to take a shortcut.

 
 
 
On the Importance of Mothering the Mother
Pregnant woman (McLean McGown)
 

By McLean McGown

McLean is a mother, wife, Postpartum Doula, Yoga & Pilates teacher, Nutritionist, Buddhist and yoga practitioner living in Los Angeles. McLean founded Mother The Mother to support women through their postpartum period into motherhood.

Follow Mclean @motherthemother

Becoming a Mother is something so big that words usually fail me as I try to express it all. Every feeling packed into a cyclical well of emotion with layers of our past, our lineage, our own birth stories as well as those of our babies. I have had two births. I have two daughters aged 7 and 1. Each pregnancy and birth had so many different lessons for me to push up against and from which to learn.

The birth of my first daughter, Jemima, did not go as I had wanted. I had planned a birth center birth with midwives and due to meconium in the amniotic fluid (she pooped) we transferred to the hospital when I was 10 cm dilated and my water broken. That car ride was a living hell. I was trying with all of my might to escape my body. To not be where I was. By the time I got to the hospital I was screaming for drugs. They finally gave me some 6 hours later after pushing and having the Dr. try to pull her out of me. I felt ravaged and traumatized. The “natural” birth I had been coached on and so wanted was being respected by all of the people in the room. But I had changed my mind and nobody was listening. I felt unseen and unheard. Traumatized. But after they put her on my chest and she started nursing it all felt perfect and in order.

Cut to a year and a half later when I crashed and realized that all was not right.

Cut to a year and a half later when I crashed and realized that all was not right. I had struggled with postpartum anxiety, barely slept, barely ate. I carried on because I thought all of what I was going through was normal. My husband went back to work the day after her birth. He is in the film business and the pressure was on. I adored my baby but I suffered. I loved being a mom. But I did not respect my process nor did I ask for help. It took a handful of years and a lot of money, healers, therapy, inner work, meditation, proper nutrition, blood work, etc. for me to come back to being whole.

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After this journey I knew that I was being called to help women thrive not just survive. I became a prenatal yoga teacher and soon made my way to becoming a postpartum doula.

Almost 6 years later when I gave birth to my second daughter, Goldy Wolf. My dream of dreams homebirth came true. For most of the time in between the girls, I was 100% sure that I did not want another kid. In fact, I had a #oneanddone hashtag. I would get so offended when people would constantly ask me when I was having another one and wasn’t it kind of selfish to have an only child..?! I was an only child and for the most part loved it. People’s feedback is so frustrating when it comes to fertility, pregnancy, postpartum. There is a lot of unconscious sharing because they often themselves did not have the care or respect that they so needed. I conceived Goldy Wolf on my 7 year wedding anniversary and she was not planned. We were elated when I found out I was pregnant with her, and very shocked.

For most of the time in between the girls, I was 100% sure that I did not want another kid. In fact, I had a #oneanddone hashtag.

However, I had had a connection with a baby girl for about 3-4 years up until this point. I had communicated with her. And I of course fantasized about my home birth. I wasn’t sure if I was going to have her this lifetime or if she was a guide. But this baby girl was Goldy, and she came in strong and fast.

I was so determined to do things differently this time around now that I knew better. Now that I was steeped in the birth world, I had so many amazing women in my life that I knew would be game changers throughout my journey. I wasn’t sick everyday like the first time so I diligently walked 3-5 miles almost every day of my pregnancy. I was vegan and ate treats and whatever my body craved. I never weighed myself. I ate freely and exercised freely and felt fabulous in my body. I went inside. I did not go to yoga classes, I did not read books, I studied my Self. I practiced very slow ashtanga yoga in silence. I didn’t share a lot. I went deeper into my inner knowing than ever before. I had learned to respect and trust myself. I knew that if I had to transfer to the hospital I would be met with the loving arms of my new OB.

And I also knew that I needed to find the mind of a warrior. So that is what I did. Davi Khalsa was my midwife and she is a Queen from another realm. She is spiritual and tough and honest and uses the F word. She helped my husband and me get into warrior mode. She helped empower him to help me birth my baby if she didn’t arrive in time. She did, thank Spirit, but he did catch her as she was born en caul (inside the still intact amniotic sack) as I birthed her on our bed. This birth was amazing. And the fucking hardest thing I’d ever done. And I’d like to add that I ran a marathon with a busted knee and that was nothing compared to this few hours of unmedicated birth. I literally surrendered to my death. It felt that big. That real. And when I surrendered finally, I pushed my baby out. I will never be as proud of myself as I was then. Nobody can ever take that away from me. A new level of fearlessness has taken residence in my body. I also knew that as much as I had prepared and meditated on and manifested for this outcome, birth is birth and is a mystery. I had to let go of the outcome and trust the process.

I will never be as proud of myself as I was then. Nobody can ever take that away from me.

That is one of the things I want to share with every woman. Do the work to get what you want but then have the bravery to surrender to whatever is. Pregnancy is an incredible time in your life to lift up the veil and dive deep into truly knowing yourself. If you so chose. Or you can chose not to.

No woman gets through conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum unscathed. There will always be a big life lesson. Because becoming a mother IS a death and rebirth of Self. It is intended to be that. Create the best support team that you can and then focus on making yourself the captain of that team. You and your baby will be the ones doing the work. Everyone else is support staff.

That is one of the things I want to share with every woman. Do the work to get what you want but then have the bravery to surrender to whatever is.

I am grateful that I had two such different births. I am grateful for the hard lessons that I have learned. They made me who I am today and helped me to be of greater service to the women in my community.

Xo - McLean

Mother The Mother

 
Self-Care Cheat Sheet For The New Mom
Illustration of woman making a heart with her hands in the bathroom mirror
 

By Dr. Michelle Glantz

Several months ago, I wrote a post on the importance of self-care and how it becomes easy to forget about ourselves while caring for our children. To reiterate, I discussed how I am a firm believer that we need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. Self-care might have different meanings for you, but if you’re a happy and healthy mama, then the chances are your kids will be as well.  

Since my post on self-care, I have been asked for some simple suggestions to cope with anxiety and stress following the birth of a baby.  Many of these are geared towards the first few months following the birth of a child, but can be used at any time or for anyone.

My suggestions may not take the place of psychotherapy with a trained professional, but they can be used to provide additional care for one’s psychological and emotional well-being. Remember that you may not feel ready to do many of the things listed below, but do what you are able and take small steps. Balancing it all can be tough, so please be gentle with yourself. Remember that taking care of yourself is not only important for YOU, but you are also modeling the importance of self-care and happiness for your children.   

You’ve got this Mamas!

Remember that taking care of yourself is not only important for YOU, but you are also modeling the importance of self-care and happiness for your children.   

Self Care Cheat Sheet

Eat well. 

Take a walk (or exercise if you’re able to and cleared by your physician). 

Stay on all medications you have been instructed to take. 

Get a massage. 

Take a bath. 

Get out of the house.

Listen to music.

Light some candles.

Take calming breaths.

Rest when your baby sleeps or when someone else can provide care for baby.  Yes, here’s the age-old cliché again, “Sleep when your baby sleeps.”  We know how difficult this actually is to carry out, but even if you’re not sleeping, take a mental break or a few minutes to just zone out or meditate.  

Make your needs a priority. It’s easy to forget that the new baby isn’t the only person needing love and attention.  Remember that you can’t properly care for your child if you are not also caring for yourself. 

Seek support from friends and family.

Verbalize how you are feeling to your partner, friend, or family.

Let others know what they can do to help and be specific about what you need from others. Don’t assume that others can read your mind or that you are asking too much from others.  Our loved ones are there to provide additional support so don’t forget to lean on them. 

Don’t compare yourself to others. Every mama and every baby is different! What might be right or work for someone else may not be right for you. 

Do not blame yourself. Find ways to have compassion for yourself.  This is a difficult time and you are trying your best. 

Just do the best you can and remind yourself that you are doing your best.

Remind yourself that all changes take time.

Remember that this too shall pass.  

Remain mindful of when you need to slow down and take a break.   

Confide in someone you trust. 

Be careful asking too many people for advice. Everyone has an opinion!

Set limits with your guests. It’s okay to let others know that you are too tired or not up to having guests over.  Take care of you first!

Surround yourself with people you love.

Avoid people who make you feel bad or uneasy and set boundaries with people you can’t avoid. Okay Mamas, we all have those people in our lives. Perhaps you can’t avoid them forever, but at least give yourself an out for right now. It’s okay to screen your phone calls and If they don’t make you feel good, you don’t have to see them!

Give yourself permission to have negative feelings. Expect some good days and some more difficult ones. Allow yourself to dislike the negative parts and to soak in the positive and know that it’s okay to feel all these conflicting emotions at once.  We have all heard well-meaning versions of the message, “Don’t feel sad.” Take note that sadness is a normal human reaction and instead of telling ourselves NOT to feel, we need to remember that it is OKAY to feel and that we will be better and stronger in doing so. 

Expect some good days and some more difficult ones.

Play. D.W. Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst believed that playing serves as the basis for creativity and the discovery of the self. Playing, says Winnicott, opens up a space of trust and relaxation and is the key to emotional and psychological well-being . By "playing", he meant not only the ways that children play, but also the way adults "play" through creating art, or participating in hobbies, laughter, conversation, etc. Winnicott believed that play is critical to the development of authentic selfhood, because when people play they feel real, spontaneous and alive. So, go ahead and give yourselves the time and space to play! 

Laugh.  Research indicates numerous benefits of laughter including enhancing intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulation of the heart, lungs and muscles, and increases in the endorphins that are released by the brain.  Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress and promote relaxation.  Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. It also helps connection with other people and may serve to Improve mood.  

Trust your instincts. You are the expert of you. Listen to yourself and your body,  and have faith that you are sensing accurately. 

Avoid overdoing anything. 

Set small goals for yourself. 

Delegate household duties. 

You are the expert of you. Listen to yourself and your body,  and have faith that you are sensing accurately. 

Prioritize what needs to be done and what can wait.

Avoid strict or rigid schedules.  While schedules can be helpful in getting baby on a routine, adhering too rigidly to them may have the effect of creating undue stress on ourselves.  It’s okay to be flexible and deviate from the plan at times.  If your baby nurses or sleeps a bit early or late, it won’t be the end of the world. 

Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out for help from a skilled professional.  We’re always here to help. 

 
I Had a 15-Minute Call about Tantrums with a Parenting Expert. Here’s What I Learned.
 
Child covering her eyes
 
 

By Erin Erenberg

Our 3 year old daughter has been having at least one tantrum per day. Our whole family, including our extended family, has been suffering as a result. After late nights googling things like “how many tantrums is too many” and “how to know when toddler tantrums indicate a mental disorder,” I decided to finally follow a friend’s advice and dig into the writing of parenting coach Vicki Hoefle.

Vicki’s approach is rooted in Adler’s Individual Psychology, and is summed up by “less is more,” meaning we as parents need to focus on controlling our own behavior rather than micromanaging our children’s.

Through her website, I set up a 15 minute phone consultation with Vicki. I learned about a year’s worth of gold in that time.

I liked Vicki immediately. She had a warm chuckle that made me want to ask her for a hug. After we briefly connected and shared a little laugh, Vicki asked me to start off by giving her a peek into why I’d called. I told her that we’d just moved our three kids -- a 6 year old boy, 3 year old girl, and 10 month old baby boy -- across the country, away from their friends, schools, and the nanny who’d been in our lives for 6 years. I told her that my reason for calling was my daughter’s daily tantrums and that our older son seemed to be adjusting well.

Her first question startled me:

“So what’s your son worried about?” Mentally, I retreaded what I’d shared: “Maybe I did say something about our son being easy to read, open with communication…did I actually just say that our son is the easy one, and Arabella is difficult? Ugh, I did.”

I answered by telling her that our son is angry with his sister for his tantrums, complaining that they keep him up at night.

“Watch that,” she answered. “Tell him to pop in earplugs at night. Tell him that he needs to think of ways that he can help his little sister. Sounds like your son is playing right into the family dynamic that he’s the good kid, and she’s the problem.”

Eek. This woman is good. This woman is correct.

I told her that we’d been focused on acknowledging George for making his transition bravely and for being so pleasant and cooperative. Her response: “That’s fine, but kids who are discouraged need acknowledgment. Your daughter needs acknowledgement.”

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As for Arabella, she told me that she’s dealing with a lot of emotions, and that we should acknowledge her for only having 1 tantrum per day after all that she’s lost and all that’s being introduced to her. “I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if she’s having 6,” said Vicki.


I was immediately flooded with both relief and empathy for Arabella. My instinct has been telling me that the consequences I’ve been enforcing for her tantrums were a mismatch. Don’t get me wrong; I eschew a lot of the modern permissive, talky-talky parenting, and I think rules and limits are important for kids to feel safe. However Vicki affirmed that, in this case, our daughter needs support, not stricture.


I was immediately flooded with both relief and empathy for Arabella. My instinct has been telling me that the consequences I’ve been enforcing for her tantrums were a mismatch.

Here’s how her advice boiled down for me.

When Arabella starts to rev up, and I know the cues, I make eye contact with her, tell her that I can see she needs some support, and ask her to participate in something with me. This morning, I’d put this into practice without realizing it, and it was our first tantrum-free morning since we’ve moved. I heard Arabella groaning to her dad, so I went to her and reminded her that we’d bought pumpkin to make pumpkin pancakes. I asked her if she wanted to help me make them. One key here is that she and I teamed up on something that I was going to do anyway -- make breakfast. Vicki emphasized that supporting an overwhelmed child isn’t about field-trip style quality time; it can be about really connecting with your child for 2 minutes every hour. It’s also about helping them see their role and importance in the family and its normal routines. 


One of Vicki’s more popular pieces on parenting compares childhood behavior to a weed and parental behavior to fertilizer.

She cautions that we often pay way too much attention to the things that drive us nuts (tantrums and whining especially) and can get past that behavior by starving it. However, with a child that’s endured a lot of change or is going through some kind of transition, our role isn’t to ignore but to support the root of the emotion.

How about when a child is in the throes of a tantrum?

Her advice was for me to connect heart to heart, literally. I’ve read a lot about holding or hugging a child who’s having a tantrum, and it doesn’t work for me. But Vicki’s advice was to make the connection by sitting together, putting my hand on her heart, acknowledging what she’s going through, trying to help her regulate her breathing. If she’s still out of her mind or is having a tantrum just to get what she wants, I can simply tell her that her tantrum will not change the outcome: I’m not going to change my mind. Then I just continue doing whatever else it is that I need to do. Firm but kind, do not lose your temper, do not model the behavior you don't want to see.

With a child that’s endured a lot of change or is going through some kind of transition, our role isn’t to ignore but to support the root of the emotion.

And what about baby Beau (10 months old)?

I’ve been concerned that there’s so much yelling at home, primarily from his 3 year old sister. Vicki reminded me that only I know that Beau could have had it any other way. A third sibling can never be a first child. She also reminded me that I can tell Beau “your sister’s having a hard time with school; she’s having a lot of feelings.” An important shift away from my usual “Arabella, please stop. You are upsetting the baby.”

In the end, Vicki told me that she usually recommends a coaching plan on this initial call but felt like I was in good shape and had good instincts. That felt like the hug that I’ve been needing through this transition, and she may have just staved off my tantrum tonight.

 
Women's Health Physical Therapist, Allison Oswald, on the Transition to Motherhood
 
Mom reading a book to two sons (Allison Oswald)
 
 
 

Allison Oswald, PT, DPT, WCS, CPT founded her private clinic, Plumb Line Studios in Santa Monica in 2011. Allison works with clients on an individual basis and sets up the proper treatment plan for them, utilizing other aspects of her clinic, such as Pilates, lymphatic treatments, massage and more. As a mother herself, Allison finds her passion in working with women who are in their childbearing years and postnatally, as she knows first hand, this area of health can be challenging without the proper support. Allison lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband and two sons.

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For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

Motherhood surprises me everyday, both the the sweet moments and the challenging ones. But overall I think I was most surprised by the pure magnitude of love that one can possibly have for another person. Children seem to fall into a different heart space than anything or anyone else. I feel like my children are a part of my soul, and the love I have for them will never diminish. This doesn't mean there aren't difficult moments/days/weeks, but even with the tantrums and the constant negotiations, I feel that love in my heart.

Children seem to fall into a different heart space than anything or anyone else.


How did you feel about returning to work?

As I entered motherhood with my first son, I had also just opened my physical therapy studio 8 months prior. So it is with no hesitation, that my most memorable challenge was finding balance as I returned to a working schedule. I vividly remember wanting to go home to nurse him between patients so that I wouldn't have to pump. So I would race home, nurse, and then race back for my last couple of hours. One day driving home I ran a stop sign and was pulled over, I started sobbing unconditionally, leaking milk everywhere and the thoughtful police officer (who was a father), consoled me and told me how difficult it is for moms to juggle it all (with a warning to stop more completely too). In that moment, which was both my low and high, I realized what I was trying to achieve was impossible. I couldn't do it all, I needed support and it was up to me to ask for it. That was the lesson I needed and still remind myself of every day.


What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

After giving birth I definitely felt supported on the physical aspect, as that is what I educate other women about on a daily basis. But I don't think I was prepared for the moments of loneliness in the initial postpartum period. Even with all of the support around me, I remember feeling so alone. I'm still not quite sure if it was the fact that there are many things that only a mother can do (ie. nursing) or that I felt like I didn't know enough to be a mom. But what I do know is that all that helped was talking to other moms. Sharing experiences with them was so reassuring, in that none of us know all the answers and that we need to follow our mama instincts from the start!
 

Even with all of the support around me, I remember feeling so alone.

WHAT HAS MOTHERHOOD MEANT FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PARTNER AND/OR YOUR OTHER SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIPS?

None of us ever know what type of parent we or our partners will be, until we actually have a child. My husband fell into fatherhood seamlessly. He was and is so involved in every aspect of parenting – from swaddling to changing diapers – he did it all without hesitation. And seeing him willingly participate made our connection, our understanding of one another, our love and our mutual respect grow exponentially. We openly discuss the highs and lows of motherhood and parenting, and I believe that communication like this is really key for any successful relationship.

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DID YOUR CENTRAL VALUES CHANGE OR SHIFT IN SOME WAY THAT YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

If anything has changed with my core values, it's just that I want to be sure they are transparent to my children. I believe showing them by example is the best lesson, so I think about them a little more intentionally than before having children. And then we often talk about how certain actions make us feel, especially the positive ones. This creates a conversation with your littles that will hopefully leave an impression and seamlessly become a part of their lives as well.