Archives for May 2009

Hypnosis during Pregnancy and Childbirth

Our minds are very powerful. Hypnosis is finally becoming recognized in the medical profession as an extremely valuable tool to assist in many areas of health.  “Hypnosis is a wonderful tool which allows access to your inner mind, allowing alignment of purpose and resolution of conflicts,” explains hypnotherapist Roseanna Jane Leaton (via American Chronicle). Hypnosis can help people with many things, from sports mind training, to weight loss, to helping people overcome fears and phobias.  So it should come as no surprise that hypnotism offers benefits to pregnant and birthing women as well!

Some benefits of Hypnotism during Pregnancy & Childbirth:

  • Increases fertility by reducing stress, which is known to be a barrier to getting pregnant
  • Overcoming morning sickness
  • Quitting smoking (benefiting you and your baby)
  • Increase energy levels
  • Maintaining a confident body image through pregnancy and after the birth
  • Reduces mood swings, anxiety, and tension, and fear
  • Helps relieve aches and pains, heartburn, flatulence, backaches, swollen feet and legs, high blood pressure, and other pregnancy-related discomforts
  • Enables a more relaxed, pleasant birthing experience
  • Reduces the length of labor
  • Reduces need for medical interventions and pain medications
  • Creates deeper levels of bonding with your baby
  • Avoiding the “baby blues” and overcoming post natal depression

How Hypnosis works during Pregnancy & Childbirth:

Ms. Leaton explains that learning hypnosis techniques enables your mind and body to relax, as your brain wave patterns change from the beta waves (normal waking consciousness) to alpha waves (drowsy relaxation) to theta wave patterns (associated with dreaming). Practicing during pregnancy helps relieve pregnancy-associated stress and discomfort, and prepairs you for a birth free of anxiety. The more you practice, the deeper the state of relaxation you will be able to achieve. This will allow you to more greatly numb your perception of pain at the time of the birth.

If you are curious what it feels to be hypnotized, HypBirth elaborates:

“Hypnosis is a natural process and is part of our daily lives though we may be unaware of it. For example, haven’t you driven several miles in your car and suddenly realized you couldn’t remember what you had just passed? There is no threat of danger in these situations, your conscious mind has simply left the driving to your subconscious, allowing yourself some time for a good daydream. This is a form of self-hypnosis…”

“It is worth remembering that before pharmaceuticals became available to assist in pain control, the only technique available was mind control,” says Ms. Leaton, “And you can learn to use your mind to put your natural opiates to work.”

For further reading:

How Does Hypnosis Make For Easy Pregnancy And Childbirth?

Hypnosis for Labor: Mind over Matter

Hypnosis for pregnancy and childbirth

HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Meathod

HypBirth: Amazing Tools for Birth

image from smh.com.au

Stock your Kitchen for a Healthy Pregnancy

Don’t diet; learn to cook.  That’s the philosphy of Dr. Ricciotti, an OB/GYN at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Mass., and author of The Pregnancy Cookbook (W. W. Norton & Company, 2002). She explains in an article called “The Pregnancy Panty” that the greatest thing about pregnancy is it’s a time when women are willing to make important lifestyle changes.

Nourishing meals are just at your fingertips… but you have to be prepared to cook in a healthier way than you might have been doing in the past.  If you want to undestand more about nutrition, equip your kitchen, and get organized, here are some tips for you from Pregnancy Today!

Getting Started

  • Buy yourself some healthy-style cookbooks.
  • Use the internet to search for healthy recipes, and cooking techniques and tips.
  • Pay more attention to food labels. Pre-packaged snack foods are often loaded with calories and unhealthy hydrogenated oils.
  • Browse around the organic food sections.
  • Think about portion control.  Often, foods are packaged to look like one portion, when they actually contain two or more.

Try these healthy substitudes:

  • Brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Olive oil in place of vegetable oils.
  • Whole-wheat bread in place of white bread.
  • Whole-grain cereals instead of white cereals.
  • Cocoa made with skim milk and lightly sugared instead of artificially-sweetened cocoa mix.
  • Sparkling water with a squeeze or two of fresh fruit juice rather than diet soda.
  • A cup of dry cereal made from whole grains instead of a granola bar.
  • Regular yogurt mixed with fresh fruit in place of artificially-sweetened yogurt.

Some staples you may want to keep on hand when fixing healthy meals:

  • Canned salmon, tuna and anchovies
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Yellow cornmeal
  • Barley
  • Dried beans
  • Lentils
  • Brown rice
  • Canned tomatoes
  • Low-sodium chicken broth
  • Egg substitute
  • Whole-wheat tortillas
  • Tofu
  • Yogurt (without artificial sweeteners)
  • Frozen chicken breast
  • Frozen fish fillet

Instead of pre-packaged snacks, try:

  • Fresh fruits (apples, oranges, melons, grapes)
  • Fresh vegetables (baby carrots, pepper slices, cherry tomatoes)
  • String cheese
  • Hummus as a dip or spread
  • Nuts
  • Canned soups (low sodium preferred)

Quick, healthy meal ideas:

  • Whip up some scrambled eggs (or use a cup of egg substitute and cook like scrambled eggs) adding some fresh vegetables (leftovers work great, too!). Serve with whole-wheat toast and yogurt with fruit.
  • Add a cup of frozen vegetables to canned soup. Heat thoroughly and serve with whole-wheat crackers and fruit.
  • Roll leftover chicken or turkey in a whole-wheat wrap with lettuce and tomato.
  • Boil a pot of water, add veges (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash) and make a tasty vegetable soup.  You can put it in the blender for a pureed soup!
  • Whole wheat pasta or cous cous topped with sauteed veges.
  • Oatmeal with cinnamon and skim milk, plus a fruit salad.
  • Salads topped with: corn, heart of palm, avocado, olives, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, feta cheese.

For something a little more advanced, try these recipes from The Pregnancy Cookbook:

image from westchesterbootcamp

Bed Rest: What, why, and how?

Although the term “bed rest” implies just what it says, not every woman who is prescribed bed rest is banished to her bed for the rest of her pregnancy.  Bed rest is common, so don’t be alarmed.  Some women just need to take it easy for a few days to stabilize a potential complication, others need to be hospitalized for many months.  Some women know it is coming because of medical history, whereas others are surprised during a routine checkup.

“Find out why you are being given bed rest and what your doctor thinks it will accomplish,” suggests Julie Webber-Davlin, PhD, LCCE, FACCE, a Lamaze childbirth educator in Arvada, Colorado (via Lamaze Magazine). “Understanding why will help you deal with it better.” Ask your health-care provider for a clean explanation and advice, including exactly what you can and can’t do while on bed rest. Even if bed rest limits your activities, don’t lose sight of any goals you had for your pregnancy. For example, if you can’t attend a childbirth class, some childbirth educators will do in-home teaching.

Below, American Pregnancy explains the reasons for bed rest, how to deal with discomfort and monotony, and why it’s important to follow doctor’s orders!

What are the reasons for bed rest?

There can be any number of reasons for bed rest, but in all cases it’s to allow you to continue with a healthy pregnancy. Here is a list of complications that may lead to bed rest:

How will bed rest help?

In most cases, bed rest gives your body a chance to normalize. Working, certain activities, lifting, or exercise may worsen or provoke certain situations, so bed rest may be prescribed to reduce vaginal bleeding or decrease the chance of premature labor. Bed rest may also be necessary (often on your side) to help increase blood flow to the placenta.

What is the best position for bed rest?

The best position for bed rest will depend on your situation and what complication your health care provider is trying to address or prevent. In most cases, you’ll be instructed to sleep or rest on your side, usually with your knees or hips bent, and maybe a pillow between your knees. You may be asked to lie on your back while being propped up with pillows or to lie on your back with your hips or legs elevated higher than your shoulders.

How can I deal with bed rest discomforts?

Bed rest will tend to cause your muscles to lose tone and make some of your joints ache. Lying down for long periods of time can also reduce your blood circulation. Changing from side to side will help stimulate your muscles and relieve pressure. Exercise is important for your blood circulation, but make sure that you visit with your health care provider before you begin any exercises. Below are common exercises that may be used:

  • Squeezing stress balls
  • Pressing your hands and feet against the bed
  • Turning your arms and feet in circles
  • Tensing or tightening your arm and leg muscles

Avoid using your abdominal muscles when you are stretching or exercising. Again, consult with your health care provider about the best ways for you to get exercise in your situation.

“Do’s” and “Don’ts” during bed rest:

The “do’s” and “don’ts” during bed rest will vary from woman to woman, depending on your situation and the reasons that bed rest is prescribed by your health care provider. It is important to get a clear understanding of what is allowed during your bed rest period. In most cases, bed rest will require that you avoid lifting, exercise, or any strenuous activity. If your bed rest occurs for a long period of time, it is important to discuss exercises or activities that you are allowed to do to keep your blood circulating. Here is a list of activities to discuss with your health care provider:

  • Cooking
  • Light chores
  • Walking
  • Bath or shower
  • Driving
  • Exercise
  • Sexual intercourse

How can I make the best of bed rest?

Bed rest may sound relaxing, but it is usually challenging for most women, especially for long periods. There are a number of things you can do to make your bed rest a more positive experience:

Establish a routine: Bed rest may lead you to feel that things are out of your control. Establishing a routine helps you maintain control and feel better about your situation.  Get dressed in comfortable clothes (or at least a cute top) every morning, and have a schedule for the day.

Spring cleaning: Ok, yes you are stuck in bed, but this is an excellent opportunity to organize photo albums, make changes to address books, update recipes, or work on whatever other projects need attention.

Connect with friends: After the baby arrives you will be busy taking care of things, and visiting with friends may be difficult. Use this time to make phone calls, send emails, and invite friends to visit.

Baby preparations: Bed rest provides you with an opportunity to get organized and plan for things related to the baby. You can begin thinking about baby names, baby registry, a new will, guardianship, insurance, baby announcements, thank you notes and financial matters. You may also use this time to shop online or on the phone for the nursery or other items you will need to care for the baby.

Medical preparations: Bed rest will also give you time to research, learn, and plan to deal with a complication, such as the delivery of a premature baby. You can get online or read books to discover how you can be prepared for handling an early delivery or other complications.

Allow friends and family to help: Your family and friends care about you and are interested in helping you out. They know you would do the same for them, so don’t be afraid to ask for help with meals, household chores, or errands. You may even find that people call to ask what they can do to help. Make it easier on yourself by having a “to do” list with you, so you can actually take them up on their offer!

Become a parenting expert: Bed rest provides you with an excellent opportunity to search the internet, read books, and go through baby and parenting magazines to gain information to help you become a parenting expert. You can learn more about breastfeeding, child development, immunizations, and other things related to you, your baby, and parenting.

Love those around you: Bed rest will require those around you to invest more in the chores, tasks and activities that you may normally have handled. Recognizing your situation, they hopefully will be doing things with a positive attitude already. But you can always take this time to do something for them to show your appreciation such as make a card, write a letter, or order a special gift.

Get organized: Being confined to the bed does not mean that you cannot be productive, whether it is accomplishing things for your family, your home, or just doing something for yourself. Having things at your fingertips will make things easier. Here is a checklist of items you may want near the bed or couch:

  • Telephone, directory and address book
  • Pens, pencils and paper
  • Brush, comb, and mirror
  • Cosmetics, nail files, etc.
  • Books, magazines, or newspapers
  • Remote controls to TV and VCR
  • Laptop computer
  • Drinks and snacks

Get Top Tips from Moms in the Trenches to find ways of making the most of your time, and dealing with bed-rest blues.

Image from Pregnancy Today

Pregnant and Exhausted!

Being pregnant is exhausting, as I remember all too well! It’s particularly common during the first trimester…  Making babies puts a strain on your entire body, which can make you awfully tired.  Hormonal changes may be contributing to your sluggishness, and it doesn’t help that your sleep is interrupted by numerous trips to the bathroom! When you throw some morning sickness and daily vomiting into the picture, it’s no wonder you’re feeling drained of all energy.  By the end of the day you probably feel like you’ve just finished running a marathon!

The good news is that you’ll probably start feeling like your old self during the second trimester. Unfortunately, you’ll probably start loosing steam again at around seven months. As you enter the thrid trimester, you’ll be carrying more weight and may be having trouble sleeping well for a variety of reasons… in addition to frequent urination there’s backache, heartburn, leg cramps, the baby kicking just as you’re drifting off to sleep!

This is all normal, but if you feel like there might be something wrong, see your doctor about ruling out any underlying causes, such as anemia or depression. If you’re having problems with depression or anxiety, your caregiver can help you find a mental health professional.

Here are some coping tips from baby center.com:

Heed your body’s signals. Start by going to bed earlier than usual, and try to take a nap during the day. Even a 15-minute catnap can make a difference, so if you work in an office and you’re lucky enough to have a door, shut it, put your head down on your desk, and rest. Or get creative: Look for an empty lounge or conference room or lie down in the back seat of your car.

Try to adjust your schedule. Cut out unnecessary social commitments and let the housework slide. If you work outside the home, see if you can cut back on your hours or arrange to take work home over the weekend so you can cut out early once in a while. Take an occasional vacation day in the middle of the week (or a sick day if you’re not feeling well). If you’re a stay-at-home mom, give yourself a break now and then and leave your children with someone else so you can catch up on your sleep.

Make sure you’re eating right. You need about 300 extra calories every day, but watch where these calories are coming from! A healthy diet made up of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, skim milk, and lean meats can be energizing. Junk food, by contrast, actually saps you of vim and vigor. Snack on healthy foods like fruit and yogurt. Cut back on caffeine and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water so you stay hydrated.

Get some moderate exercise every day. You may feel like you barely have the energy to make it through the day, let alone exercise. But moderate activity, such as a short walk, can actually make you feel better. Take frequent breaks throughout your day to stretch and breathe deeply.

Hang in there. If first-trimester fatigue is getting you down, take heart that soon enough you’ll be in your second trimester and raring to go again. You may even be up to taking in the late show or going on a weekend getaway. If you’re nearing the end of your pregnancy, you’ll be a new mom before you know it, looking back on this period of relatively undisturbed nights with bleary-eyed nostalgia. So consider stocking up on your zzz’s while you can.

* I LOVE THIS (found it here): *

Miscarriage: 10 Common Questions

A miscarriage (also called spontaneous abortion)  is the loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, but most often occurs during the first 13 weeks. Miscarriages occur in about 10-25 percent of recognized pregnancies and up to a surprising 50 percent of all pregnancies (meaning the woman miscarries about the time she would have expected her next period, without even realizing she had become pregnant). About 85 percent of women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy the next time.

Pregnancy is an exciting time, but it is wise to be informed about miscarriage in the unfortunate event that you find yourself or someone you know faced with one.  There are different types of miscarriage, different treatments for each, and different statistics for what your chances are of having one. The following overview of miscarriage is provided so that you might not feel so confused or alone if you face a possible miscarriage situation. As with all pregnancy complications, the best person to ask questions of is your health care provider.
1. How do I know if I’m having a miscarriage?
Symptoms of miscarriage vary. For some women, the first warning sign of miscarriage is a feeling that they aren’t pregnant anymore, or sudden decrease in pregnancy symptoms.  If anything out of the ordinary happens, you should contact your care provider immediately.  A woman who is miscarrying may experience any of the following:

  • Minimal to severe cramping
  • Bleeding, ranging from light to heavy.
  • Signs of blood loss, such as weakness, dizziness or light-headedness
  • Mild to severe back pain
  • Intense abdominal pain or cramping, sometimes described as similar to labor.
  • Any discharge with an odor or clot-like material passing from the vagina
  • Fever
  • Weight loss

2. How is a miscarriage treated?
During or after a miscarriage, the main goal is to prevent hemorrhaging and infection. The earlier you are in the pregnancy, the more likely that your body will expel all the fetal tissue by itself and will not require further medical procedures. If the body does not expel all the tissue, the most common procedure performed to stop bleeding and prevent infection is a dilation and curettage, known as a D&C. Drugs may be prescribed to help control bleeding after the D&C is performed. Bleeding should be monitored closely once you are at home; if you notice an increase in bleeding or the onset of chills or fever, it is best to call your physician immediately.

3. Why did this happen to me?
It is normal to wonder why or even feel responsible, despite the fact that very few miscarriages are actually caused by anything in your control. Here are some of the most common causes:

Genetic: About half of all early miscarriages occur because of random chromosomal abnormalities or maternal genetic blood factors.  Unfortunately, such factors may not be looked for until a woman has experienced two or more losses. In such cases, it is best to seek out the services of a genetic counselor through the National Society of Genetic Counselors.

Anatomical: A defect in the connective tissue of the cervix or an abnormality in the shape or capacity of the uterus may be responsible. Scar tissue may impede implantation or development, and larger myomas (fibroids) may cause improper implantation or may draw blood flow away from the developing embryo.

Hormonal: Women with hormonal abnormalities may experience infertility, and when they do conceive they are more likely to miscarry. A short post-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle may lead to repeated miscarriages. The incidence of miscarriage also increases with age, from 15 percent at ages under than 25 years to 35 percent after age 38.

Immunological: Some infections or a specific immunity factor, such as “anticardiolipin antibodies” or antiphospholipid syndrome, may cause miscarriage. A medical professional would perform blood studies to rule out such causes.

Male factors: There are increased numbers of early pregnancy losses that seem to be associated with low sperm counts or with a high ratio of abnormal sperm.

Environmental: Research on environmental causes of early pregnancy loss are still ongoing. To create a healthy womb environment, women should eat a healthy diet and avoid smoking, drug use, excessive caffeine and exposure to radiation or toxic substances.  But even women who have used drugs or smoke or eat junk food can maintain a healthy pregnancy. The vast majority of miscarriages have nothing to do with the activities of the mother. Nevertheless, in the search for answers we often look to ourselves first.

4. How long will it take to miscarry?
Generally a woman will experience bleeding, which progresses from light to heavy, as well as cramping. The process may take one day or may last several days. If you think you’re having a miscarriage, contact your midwife or doctor. You’ll have a physical exam, and perhaps an ultrasound. If the miscarriage is complete and the uterus is clear, then usually no further treatment is required.

5. How long will the bleeding last?
If the miscarriage is complete, bleeding should last about a week, two at the most, with some minor cramping for a few days after the loss. The bleeding should never be heavier than the heaviest day of a period. If blood loss exceeds a pad or tampon an hour, or if bleeding lasts longer than two weeks, notify your care provider. It is possible to miscarry without much, if any, bleeding, as the embryo can be reabsorbed.

6. When will my period return?
Following an uncomplicated miscarriage, most women who had regular cycles will have a period within four to six weeks following the completion of the miscarriage.  If you had a spontaneous miscarriage without any prolonged bleeding, it is a safe bet that you would ovulate within two to four weeks after the miscarriage.

7. How long will it take me to recover?
Emotional recovery from a pregnancy loss may take many months. It is not unusual for a woman to recall the pain of a miscarriage her whole life. Physical recovery can depend on the length of the pregnancy, whether or not complications have occurred and whether there is any remaining tissue. In an uncomplicated miscarriage, physical recovery may take only one to two weeks.

8. When can we start trying again?

How long you decide to wait is a personal decision, made after discussing your situation with your care provider and your partner. It is important to take time to heal emotionally as well as physically after a miscarriage. Emotions– such as stress and anxiety– may affect hormonal balance, and waiting until you have recovered may also help you approach your next pregnancy with less apprehension.

Many healthcare providers encourage woman to wait at least a few months to strengthen the chance of a healthy pregnancy.  It takes time for the uterus to recover and for the endometrial lining to become strong and healthy again.  If a woman’s body isn’t ready to support a pregnancy by the time that she conceives again, she faces an increased risk of experiencing a repeat miscarriage.

Medically, it is safe to conceive after two or three normal menstrual periods if tests or treatments for the cause of the miscarriage are not being done. Some couples wait six months to a year before attempting another pregnancy in order to come to terms with their loss, whereas others feel there is no compelling reason to wait so long.
9. How can I support my partner?
Supporting your partner while you yourself may be grieving the loss of a son or daughter of your dreams can be very difficult. You need emotional support as well. Try to talk to your partner about the loss. While it will bring up fresh memories, it is best to communicate openly about your wide range of feelings.

Many parents want to find a way to help hold on to the memory of the baby they lost. You may want to gather together mementos, such as an ultrasound picture of your baby, your baby’s footprints or other items that help you feel close to your baby as you move through the grieving process.
Learn more from the March of Dimes.

10. How will a miscarriage affect my next pregnancy?

Your next pregnancy might not be as joyful as you would like because you’ve learned that life doesn’t always go according to your plans. You can’t say it’s your first pregnancy, but you also cannot say that you are a parent. The following are recommendations to make this time a little easier.

Prepare your body as much as possible for your next pregnancy:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy
  • Manage stress
  • Keep weight within healthy limits
  • Take folic acid daily
  • Do not smoke

When you become pregnant again:

  • Ask that your pregnancy be monitored carefully.
  • You may want to avoid early preparation for the baby’s arrival. Some couples request that baby showers be held after the arrival of the baby.
  • Sometimes people who are close to you are also emotionally invested in your pregnancy, and they will make suggestions about what you should do.  The easiest way to handle their suggestions is to listen, and then do whatever you, your partner, and medical team feel is best.
  • Your birth experience might be bittersweet because memories of your loss may resurface. You will probably need to do some grieving in addition to celebrating your new baby.
  • Your parenting may be influenced by your past loss, so moments of panic might occur, especially when the new baby is ill, or too quiet.
  • You may feel the need to protect yourself from more sorrow, so you might be cautious bonding with your new baby until you’re certain he or she is safe and healthy.
  • If you feel you are struggling, speak to your healthcare provider about possible support groups or counselors who could help you through this difficult time.

For more information:

American Pregnancy Association

iVillage: Answers to your 10 Most-Asked Questions

www.nationalshareoffice.com
www.mend.org
www.aplacetoremember.com

image from kenyfelix.com

Most Popular Baby Names Right Now!

Jacob held on to the top spot for baby boy names for the 10th year in a row, while Emma ousted Emily as America’s favorite name for a baby girl

Very popular in the late 1800s, Emma fell out of the Top 300 in the 1970s.  But Emma came roaring back in the past seven years, always finishing in the Top 5. Emily had been the most popular baby girl name since 1996.  Each gender also got a new addition to its “Top 10” list. Alexander (number 6) joined the boys’ club, and Chloe (number 10) joined the girls’ rankings.

A list of baby names is complied every year the Social Security Administration, based on the names of babies applying for Social Security numbers. (Most children receive their numbers at birth.)  More than 4.2 million births were registered in 2008. (The rankings are based strictly on spelling, not how the name sounds. For example, the names Kaitlin, Kaitlyn, Kaitlynn, Katelin, Katelyn, Katelynn and Katlyn are considered separate entries.)

The latest Top 10 names for baby girls: (based on 2008 statistics)

  1. Emma
  2. Isabella
  3. Emily
  4. Madison
  5. Ava
  6. Olivia
  7. Sophia
  8. Abigail
  9. Elizabeth
  10. Chloe

The Top 10 names for baby boys: (based on 2008 statistics)

  1. Jacob
  2. Michael
  3. Ethan
  4. Joshua
  5. Daniel
  6. Alexander
  7. Anthony
  8. William
  9. Christopher
  10. Matthew

Are you curious how this list compares to the “Top 10” list 50 years ago? Compare today’s list with the one from 1958:

  1. Mary
  2. Susan
  3. Linda
  4. Karen
  5. Patricia
  6. Debra
  7. Deborah
  8. Cynthia
  9. Barbara
  10. Donna

The Top 10 boys’ names in 1958 were:

  1. Michael
  2. David
  3. James
  4. Robert
  5. John
  6. William
  7. Mark
  8. Richard
  9. Thomas
  10. Steven

Source: The Today Show

Image from Sweet Pea Photography

Benefits of Sleeping with your Baby

With a new baby on the way, you often hear talk about decorating a nursery. Have you been busy buying baby paraphernalia (like cribs, mobiles, and crib sheets with matching curtains) and dreaming of your small bundle of joy smiling at the dancing bunnies overhead and she drifts off to sleep? In the USA, when most expectant parents think about nighttime, they imagine placing baby in a crib, dimming the lights, and tiptoeing out of the room, leaving a peacefully slumbering baby behind. Is this the way you picture your baby’s sleeping arrangements?

There is no right or wrong place for baby to sleep. We believe, and Dr. Sears agrees, that wherever all family members sleep the best is the right arrangement for you. But in contrast to the scenario above, over half the world’s population sleeps with their baby, and more and more parents in the U.S. are sharing sleep with their little one.

Dr. Bill Sears’ simple definition of co-sleeping: Mother and baby sleeping within arm’s reach of one another. The closer that mother and baby can sleep together the healthier it is for both of them. Here’s why:

1. Babies sleep better

Sleep-sharing babies usually go to sleep and stay asleep better. Being parented to sleep at the breast of mother or in the arms of father creates a healthy go-to-sleep attitude. One of our goals of nighttime parenting is to teach baby learns that going to sleep is a pleasant state to enter.

Put yourself in your baby’s shoes. A baby passes from deep sleep into light sleep as often as every hour. For a small baby, this is a vulnerable period for nightwaking, and it is difficult for baby to resettle on his own into a deep sleep. You are a familiar presence, whom baby can touch, smell, and hear. Your presence reassures baby that “It’s OK to go back to sleep.” A familiar touch, perhaps a few minutes’ feed, and you comfort baby back into deep sleep without either parent or baby fully awakening.

Explains Dr. Sears:

Many babies need help going back to sleep because of a developmental quirk called object or person permanence. When something or someone is out of sight, it is out of mind. Most babies less than a year old do not have the ability to think of mother as existing somewhere else. When babies awaken alone in a crib, they become frightened and often unable to resettle back into deep sleep. Because of this separation anxiety, they learn that sleep is a fearful state to remain in (not one of our goals of nighttime parenting).

2. Mothers sleep better

Many mothers and infants are able to achieve nighttime harmony: babies and mothers get their sleep cycles in sync with one another.

Martha Sears notes: “I would automatically awaken seconds before my baby would. When the baby started to squirm, I would lay on a comforting hand and she would drift back to sleep. Sometimes I did this automatically and I didn’t even wake up.”

Contrast sleep-sharing with the crib and nursery scene. Baby awakens alone out of touch. He first squirms and whimpers. Finding himself still alone, baby’s cry escalates into a piercing wail that jolts mother awake and sends her staggering reluctantly down the hall. By the time mother reaches the baby, baby is wide awake and upset, mother is wide awake and upset, and the comforting that follows becomes a reluctant duty rather than an automatic, nurturing response. It takes longer to resettle an upset solo sleeper than it does a half-asleep baby who is sleeping within arm’s reach of mother. And mother may be wide-awake by now and too jittery to fall back asleep herself.

Dr. Sears explains: If, however, the baby is sleeping next to mother and they have their sleep cycles in sync, most mothers and babies can quickly resettle without either member of the sleepsharing pair fully awakening. Being awakened suddenly and completely from a state of deep sleep to attend to a hungry or frightened baby is what leads to sleep-deprived parents and fearful babies.

3. Breastfeeding is easier

In order to preserve sanity, most veteran breastfeeding mothers have learned that sharing sleep makes breastfeeding easier. They often wake up just before the babies awaken for a feeding. By being there and anticipating the feeding, mother can breastfeed baby back to a deep sleep before baby (and often mother) fully awakens.

(Note: Breastfeeding mothers find it easier than bottlefeeding mothers to get their sleep cycles in sync with their babies.)

Dr. Sears explains:

Mothers who experience daytime breastfeeding difficulties report that breastfeeding becomes easier when they sleep next to their babies at night and lie down with baby and nap nurse during the day. We believe baby senses that mother is more relaxed, and her milk-producing hormones work better when she is relaxed or sleeping.

4. It’s contemporary parenting

Sleep-sharing is even more relevant in today’s busy lifestyles. As more and more mothers, out of necessity, are separated from their baby during the day, sleeping with their baby at night allows them to reconnect and make up for missed touch time during the day. As a nighttime perk, the relaxing hormones that are produced in response to baby nursing relax a mother and help her wind down from the tension of a busy work day.

5. Babies thrive

Dr. Sears explains: Over the past thirty years of observing sleep-sharing families in our pediatric practice, we have noticed one medical benefit that stands out; these babies thrive . “Thriving” means not only getting bigger, but also growing to your full potential, emotionally, physically, and intellectually. Perhaps it’s the extra touch, in addition to the extra feedings, that stimulates development (yes, sleep-sharing infants breastfeed more often than solo sleepers).

6. Parents and infants become more connected

One of your early goals of parenting is becoming connected with your baby. Infants who sleep with their parents (some or all of the time) during those early formative years not only thrive better, but infants and parents are more connected.

7. Reduces the risk of SIDS

New research is showing that infants who sleep safely nestled next to parents are less likely to succumb to the tragedy of SIDS. (Yet, because SIDS is so rare– .5 to 1 case per 1,000 infants– this worry should not be a reason to sleep with your baby. For in depth information on the science of sleepsharing and the experiments showing how sleep benefits a baby’s nighttime physiology, click here.)


image from cornerstork

Sleepsharing is an optional attachment tool. Co-sleeping does not always work and some parents simply do not want to sleep with their baby. You are not bad parents if you don’t sleep with your baby, but you should try it. If it’s working and you enjoy it, continue. If not, try other sleeping arrangements (an alternative is to place a crib or co-sleeper adjacent to your bed).

Dr. Sears explains:

New parents often worry that their child will get so used to sleeping with them that he may never want to leave their bed. Yes, if you’re used to sleeping first-class, you are reluctant to be downgraded. Like weaning from the breast, infants do wean from your bed (usually sometime around two years of age. Click here for tips on transitioning kids to their own bed). Keep in mind that sleep-sharing may be the arrangement that is designed for the safety and security of babies. The time in your arms, at your breast, and in your bed is a very short time in the total life of your child, yet the memories of love and availability last a lifetime.

Visit Dr. Sear’s website for more information on sleep-sharing:
Our Co-sleeping Experiences
Our Experiments
Co-sleeping Research
Stories From Co-Sleeping Parents
7 Benefits of Co-sleeping: Medical and Developmental
Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper Bassinet
Co-Sleeping and SIDS
Co-sleeping Safety
Sleep Safety

A Mother’s Day Tribute to you!

To all the Awesome Mothers out there (yes, I mean you!):

I got hit with this email forward, and thought it was actually quite sweet. I’m sure there are more eloquent tributes to Mom out there, but this captures the essential sweetness of motherhood.

Before I was a Mom,
I never tripped over toys
or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn’t worry whether or not
my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind
and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held down a screaming child
so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night
watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom,
I never held a sleeping baby just because
I didn’t want to put her down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces
when I couldn’t stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small
could affect my life so much.

I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom,
I didn’t know the feeling of
having my heart outside my body..
I didn’t know how special it could feel
to feed a hungry baby.
I didn’t know that bond
between a mother and her child.
I didn’t know that something so small
could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom,
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night
every 10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth,
the joy,
the love,
the heartache,
the wonderment
or the satisfaction of being a Mom…
I didn’t know I was capable of feeling so much,
before I was a Mom .

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

image from krha.nhs.uk/ER/ERDIP.htm

Hello, Bright Eyes!

At times (altogether too many times, actually) I look in the mirror and go, “Where did those DARK CIRCLES come from??” Because it seems that sleep deprivation does catch up with you, whether you’re a pregnant gal whose beauty rest is disturbed by hourly trips to the bathroom and the inability to get into a comfortable position… or a new mom with an infant who wants to be rocked for an hour at midnight and then again at 3 AM… or, like me, have a couple energetic kids to chase after (and haggle with… haggling is my three-and-a-half year old’s newest skill) all day long.

So, if you’ve got to look good for a big meeting or a long-awaited night on the town, what can you do to wake up tired-looking eyes?  “Just because you feel exhausted doesn’t mean you have to look that way, too,” says Parents.com.  Here are some beauty tips to to help you looking bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!

  • Invest in a good eye cream. While eye creams may not actually zap wrinkles, they do temporarily plump up the under-eye area, diminishing the appearance of circles.
  • Switch to cream concealer. Dot it on with a tiny, stiff-bristled makeup brush. Don’t blend — that just rubs it off.
  • Cover with foundation that matches your skin tone. Blend well, ideally with a makeup sponge.
  • Lightly brush translucent loose powder over the entire area.
  • Use a light-colored shadow, such as bone or white, on lids and in the inner corners of eye. Lighter hues reflect light, brightening the eye area.
  • Don’t skip the eyelash curler. According to makeup artists, that one extra step really opens up the eyes, making your eyes look bigger, brighter, and much more alert.

Feature photo from stricly woman.

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