Book Groups Rock!

As I sat with a group of moms who I think are pretty fantastic, we spoke of the struggles of parenting. No matter how prepared you think you are there are major difficulties. And they pop up every day! It’s sort of a grind. Don’t get me wrong the sweet, tender moments and small victories are sprinkled in too. But sometimes it is hard.
This is why book groups rock! If you are not part of a book group let me explain. The concept is you have a group of people who read the same book and get together to discuss it. They evolve into meetings that include adult beverages, snacks, and good conversations. Sometimes you really talk about a book-but not always.
Book groups provide a shared time and space to connect with people. Talking about why children fail to flush, don’t eat their lunch, and trying to get to work on time is therapeutic. Sharing resources-the best new restaurants and exercise classes in town- has a lot of value. There is venting while laughing about how your issues don’t seem as bad when you hear about someone else’s. It has a magical quality to it really.
If you are lucky (I put myself in this category) you will meet a group of people who don’t judge. They are able to use their own personal lenses to help you weather storms from job changes to moving to eating that giant cookie with ice cream on top. And you learn about people who come from different circles which helps expand your own understanding of how to parent in the best way possible.
The second benefit of a book group is modeling reading for your children. When sons and daughters hear about how their parents make time to read and talk about a book it validates some of their school experiences. It makes them want to read. They may ask questions about the types of books you read as a grown up. Children see the importance of connecting with others (isn’t this becoming a lost art as kids get locked into screens.)
My life is rich as I am part of two book groups. Both have wonderful women as members who I consider an important part of my parenting network. So my advice to any new Mama is to find your village, start a book group (even if you are really tired), and see how many ways it can enrich your life!

Falling In Love

I meet new mothers every week. It’s a gift. I see wrinkled little newborns, exhausted parents, and excited grandparents. I listen to stories and answer questions in the hopes of offering insights in the world of a baby.  
The world of babies. It’s complex. They cry, they sleep, and they eat. And babies poop-a lot. (New parents are poop obsessed. They bring them to me. They show me pictures. They talk about the color in vivid detail. It’s slightly charming in an odd way, but I digress.)
The reason I love working with new families is because of the raw emotions. It is such a precious time and so fleeting. Yet that is what makes it so hard for parents-there is a sense of helplessness. In our society, we like control. When a baby enters the picture, control is lost.
To the new mothers and fathers I say- take a deep breath for this phase is very short. That feeling you gets when your tiny newborn curls up on your chest to sleep is magical. The feeling you get when you listen to their breaths against your neck is so special. They will never be this tiny again.
As a person you will grow. You will learn about unconditional love in a way you never thought possible. Your patience will be tested and you will have to solve new problems. (What is the trick to getting the baby to stay asleep when you put him down.). You will put your faith in others-doctors, nurses, caregivers-and hope they have your child’s best interests at heart too. You will meet new friends to help you navigate this new world.
And you will smile. You will glow when you see that beautiful face for the first time. You will try hard to elicit the baby’s “real smile” for the first, second, and thousandth time. You will smile when you realize you had spit up on your shoulder for your entire work day-and no one told you.
Fall in love with your babies. It will not be an easy journey. It will not be all hearts and flowers. But the gift of parenthood is amazing so enjoy the ride.

Breastfeeding-Find the Helpers

When I was pregnant with my first child I created images in my head of what the experience of breastfeeding would look like.  It would be a time to connect with my baby, provide nourishment, and share a gift that is really special.  I was lucky.  He got it right from the beginning.  (I think he absorbed the advice that I shared daily with patients-you see I am a Lactation Consultant.)  He nursed like a champion, in fact, it was bottles he was not so fond of, but I digress.
Fast forward two years to when my daughter was born.  She was smaller than her brother and latching was a bit more challenging.  She tended to open her mouth just enough so that it was excruciating (well beyond the 10 second zing that would be considered normal.)  I worked hard to get her to open her mouth wider by applying gentle pressure to her chin and her latch improved within a few days.  Once again, I considered myself lucky.
The truth is that breastfeeding is not instinctual.  It may be natural, but it is not always easy.  And it takes the average Mama about 3 weeks to get it down.  But once that magic happens, it is a truly amazing journey.
Here are some things to keep in mind-
Take A Prenatal Breastfeeding Class.  Learning about Colostrum, the importance of oatmeal, use of breast pumps, and other tips gives you insight.  Information is power.  Get as much information while you are not sleep deprived with a newborn.
 
Get Help Early.  Most hospitals have Lactation Consultants on staff.  They should be able to trouble shoot and offer support.  They can often help you obtain a breast pump through your insurance company.
“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
-Fred Rogers
Figure Out Who Is On Your Team.  Breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint.  You need allies who can support you on days that are difficult.  They are family members who will rub your shoulders.  Friends who will share tips.  And neighbors who will cook you a meal.  Find these team members to help carry you through the tough times.
Go To A Group.  I know support groups can be daunting.  It’s hard to get out of the house, open up to strangers, and participate in discussions.  But the camaraderie and information can be so helpful.  As someone who facilitates two breastfeeding groups, I love to watch friendships develop at my groups.  If you are north of Boston, check out Stork Ready.  Or do a Google search to determine where the closest breastfeeding support group is located.
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Set Small Goals For Yourself.  Preparing to breastfeed for 12 months (the current recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics) is daunting.  When you run into breastfeeding speed bumps it seems like an eternity!  Tell yourself you hope to nurse for a  week, then a month, and then see what happens.  It makes the impossible seem possible.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself.  I cannot tell you how many mothers come to see me and blame themselves for low milk supply, giving a little bit of formula, and not loving the whole breastfeeding thing.  Mothers are the most important player on the breastfeeding team.  And making sure that she is ok is crucial.  If you follow me, you know that my saying-“Guilt is a useless emotion so check it at the door.”
Eat Mama, Eat.  Moms who breastfeed need 500 extra calories to produce breastmilk.  Yup!  You read that correctly.  Eat what makes you happy (read chocolate and ice cream on those exceptionally trying days.)  Foods high in protein help Moms have more energy, but a balanced diet is really the best option.  Don’t worry if you get crumbs on the baby’s head-it’s all good!
Reach Out For Support.  Sometimes you need the assistance of a trained Lactation Consultant.  Trouble shooting early can help you avoid pain, fears, and help give you guidance.  As the owner of Joyeux Parenting, I love helping families as they begin their breastfeeding journey.  It is a privilege for me to offer support and help to those who need it most.  If I can help you and your family please call me at (617)970-2154  for more information about my services.

Somewhere Between Helicopter Parenting and Free Range Parenting Is a Good Place To Land

I often find myself telling my kids to “be careful” in the most mundane circumstances. Be careful- pouring the milk. Be careful- climbing on the slide. Be careful- when you get into the tub. And then I pause to ask myself why I do it. It’s like a gut reaction that I can’t stop. Why do they need to be careful?
There is a bumper sticker that I really love. “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Does a similar sentiment apply to kids? Careful children don’t learn as much as the ones who take chances-I wonder.
According to the Webster’s dictionary, one definition for careful is “marked by wary caution or prudence.” One of the joys of childhood is jumping in with both feet. Kids instinctively explore and act impulsively. And I think in most situations, they learn a lot in the process. Sure, accidents can happen, but most of all there is a whole lot of discovery.
Recently my daughter decided to climb a rock wall. She has done so many times with her grandmother at the YMCA. And she does it with confidence and enthusiasm. But this rock wall was outside (and very, very high.) She donned a helmet and the harness. She climbed up like a spider monkey. It was all good until she reached the top. At the top, fear set in and tears began to fall. I felt helpless as I watched her crying out to me. But as we cheered her on and offered reassurance, I knew she would ultimately gain strength. I was so glad she had the opportunity to try.

I am learning to let go and give my children more and more responsibilities. I hope that they value their mistakes and remember that risks are worth taking. I want them to climb to the top of the jungle gym. I want them to approach a new situation with confidence. I want them to fail so they learn to persevere.
The next time you tell your children to be careful, ask yourself if you should. (And for the record, my daughter made it down safely and smiled once her feet were on the ground.)

Breaking The Rules

When is it ok to break the rules?  Consistency is key, but sometimes you need to fly by the seat of your pants.
As my family recovered from the latest round of illnesses that plagued our home, some of my typical family rules were thrown by the wayside.  I just needed to make some temporary changes to get us through a tough patch.  Yet, I still felt the pang of guilt (I know, I know, it’s a useless emotion) because I was not following through.
Life isn’t perfect and there are curveballs thrown in the mix just to keep things interesting.  So in order to go with it you have to adapt.  For example, when the stomach bug hit every member of my family (except for me-Thank goodness, because who would have done 12 loads of laundry otherwise) we had to change.  The television was on non-stop.  I was so exhausted from waking up every 2 hours to help the “patients” that I didn’t have any energy to stop it.
There are times to be consistent and times that you just need to adapt to the curve balls.  Popsicles at 11 am seem reasonable when it is 90 degrees, your children just completed tball and soccer, and summer is fast approaching.
There are times to accept help from family, friends, and neighbors.  I consider myself very lucky to be surrounded by a great village.  I lend a hand when others are in need and they do the same for me.
There are moments when you drop the ball.  (Last week I missed a tball game despite my good intentions.  Too many calendars to juggle and not enough time.)  I did not beat myself up-and given my perfectionist nature, that is no small task.
As a general rule, I like rules!  I think they help my family stay organized and function more efficiently.  But there are definitely times when you have to break the rules.

A Dialogue On Healthy Weight

I recently sat with a group of impressive people to discuss new strategies
for obesity prevention.  Professionals from Nutrition, Obstetrics,
Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and Public Health gathered together.  The
goal is to design a program to help families be healthy.
Did you know how important it is to be healthy before your baby is
conceived?  Did you know that maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight can
have long term effects on your child?  Did you know that the extra weight
carried around your middle causes extra strain on your internal organs?
I think in this fast paced world we forget to think about long term
outcomes.  Research shows that many women gain weight during their pregnancies and are not able to lose it before getting pregnant again.  And it is often difficult to find healthy ways to exercise and lose weight when children are very young.
But the question that needs answering is-how can the medical community work with people to get to a healthy weight in a positive way?  How can we be supportive without negative feelings?  After all, the conversations about BMI and weight can be challenging.
As we continue to do research and create programs that support families struggling with extra weight, we need to remember to keep the dialogue going.  As a patient, know that we care.  We want to help you be your best you!

Mistakes Are Proof You Are Trying

Part of my sense of self is knowing that I am a good parent.  As our children become more independent and venture away from the nest, they make their own choices.  They have the ability to decide whether to conform to the social norms and expectations.  They sometimes lose their way and impulses take over.  They make mistakes-big and small.  It is as much a part of childhood as going to the playground.  Yet, what we do in response to these mistakes is often overlooked.  We, as the level headed adult, get to decide how the next part of the story plays out.  Admittedly, sometimes we react, raise our voices, and we can take a situation to another level.
Do you react to your child instead of thinking about the life lesson embedded in this experience?  I think it is sometimes hard not to just react.  I am busy.  I am juggling many balls in the air in the hopes that none of them will drop.  But does my need to get things done mean that my children cannot make mistakes?
Mistakes are proof that you are trying.  Mistakes come in many shapes and sizes.  Mistakes can be made at any age.  Mistakes are learning opportunities.
Today I started the day with a smile.  The kids were surprisingly happy as well. (We often begin school days with the unpleasant conversations of why life is not fair.  But that was not our beginning today!)  Undoubtedly, one of the balls will drop today and I am going to Embrace the Chaos.  I am going to stay calm, not react, and see it as a learning opportunity and not a mistake.  And I am going to tell my family why we need to approach things in this manner from now on.  (Is this a lofty goal, perhaps.)
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We are fast approaching Spring.  The sun is shining, the snow is melting, and I am going to try my best to let my children take risks and make mistakes.  And I am going to change the way I react to their mistakes and my own.  Wish me luck!