Thinking of Expanding Your Family? Here’s 10 Reasons You May Want to Wait

familyAfter having a baby, many people are surprised at how quickly friends and family begin asking if they will be having another child in the near future. While there is something special about welcoming another adorable newborn into the world, it is also important to carefully weigh your options when deciding whether or not you want to expand your family. Whether you are facing pressure from family members or simply are concerned that your child needs a sibling, here are some reasons why you may decide to wait before adding a new baby to your family.

Physical Recovery after Childbirth

Although some women seem to sail through labor and delivery with ease, many need some time to recover physically after having a baby. Even those who spring back to normal within only a few weeks should still take time to allow their body to build its strength back up. According to Parents Magazine, the March of Dimes recommends that women wait for 18 to 24 months before attempting to conceive again. This not only allows the new mom to have more time for her body to heal, but will also ensure that everyone has made it through that first year full of sleepless nights before a newborn takes up residence.

Reduce Household Stress

Every family goes through periods of increased stress: maybe it’s a new job, a major life event like moving or just basic family squabbles. Sometimes it’s best to wait out challenging situations before adding a newborn baby to the mix. Waiting to have a baby can allow you time to pursue counseling or practice finding new ways to relax, or to move to a career that’s more rewarding (emotionally or financially). In cases where a stressful event is only anticipated to last for a short period of time — e.g., one of the parents is finishing a degree — then it may be best to wait it out.

Take Time to Budget for a New Baby

Having a new baby can wreak havoc on a family’s finances. This is especially true for families that are already struggling to provide for one or more children. According to a recent study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a family who has a baby in 2013 can expect to spend approximately $241,080 by the time the child turns 18. And that’s just for one kid. While this number is staggering alone, the USDA report goes on to add that this number can reach $301,970 when inflation is taken into account. Spending another year or two saving up can make a significant difference in the quality of life you can offer your child.

Give Younger Children Time to Adjust

Families that already have young children may need to take everyone’s feelings into consideration. Toddlers are notorious for reverting back to baby-like behavior once a newborn is added to the family. Older children may also have concerns that should be addressed before getting pregnant. If you know that a new baby is a certainty, then you may spend some time introducing the idea of a sibling before you conceive. Additionally, waiting can allow your child to adjust to a new sibling once he’s passed a major milestone, such as potty training or starting school.

Strategize in a Changing Economy

The changes in the economy are influencing the decisions many people make in regards to family planning. Those who are concerned about job loss or housing may choose to wait out their current struggles. Additionally, many new parents are deciding that it is better to reuse children’s furniture, clothing and toys from their first child once the new one arrives.

Develop Better Health Habits

Whether it is a woman’s first pregnancy or her fifth, it is important for her to be in excellent health before she gets pregnant. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a preconception checkup is always advisable. During this checkup, a woman can discuss any issues with diet, exercise and past health problems so she and the doctor can develop a plan for a healthier lifestyle. Those who engage in activities that are not safe for pregnancy, such as smoking or drinking alcohol, may also decide to wait while they kick their unhealthy habits.

Make Sure Your Partner is Ready

In many relationships, it is not uncommon for one person to get the urge to have another baby while the other partner is not so sure it is the right time. Although it may be hard to wait when one person feels her biological clock is ticking, it is best to be sure that everyone in the family is on board. This is especially true if one partner is facing new challenges in life (job, etc.) that would be affected by having a new baby. This way, everyone will be ready to welcome the baby upon its arrival.

Enjoy Your Youngest Child a Little Longer

There is a popular saying that reminds parents that children are only small for a little while: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Ask any mother who is juggling a newborn and a toddler and she will likely tell you that her firstborn’s first year flew by in a haze. Waiting to expand your family can give you a little extra time to enjoy with your youngest child before a newborn throws you off schedule. Read an extra bedtime story, spend another hour at the park, and think about how rushed you would be if you were exhausted from pregnancy or toting a newborn on your family outing.

Transition Through a Major Life Change

Family life includes many transitional moments during which one or several members of the family may be dealing with a significant life change. For example, caring for an aging family member may take up too much time and energy for you to expend on another pregnancy. Additionally, starting a new job, moving to a new home and completing a program to obtain a degree or diploma are all times when it may be important to focus on just the present task on hand. Although there may never be the perfect time to have another child, it is still best to ensure that you are fully stabilized as a family before you have another little one.

Bringing a new child into the world is a beautiful life event that will lead to many wonderful memories; however, it is important to keep in mind that new babies can be a lot of hard work, not to mention an extra financial burden. Although societal and family pressures may have you feeling as though you need to get started on adding to your family right away, it is always worth the wait to make sure everyone is ready. This way, you can expand your family according to your own schedule so that you, your partner, and your current children will be ready to welcome a new member to your family with open arms.

Creating a Social Network as a New Mom

momgroupBeing a new mom is overwhelming. When you get home from the hospital with your new baby, you’re focused on getting used to your new role and responsibilities and enjoying mom and baby time. At some point, though, you’re hit with the desire to get out of the house and connect with other adults. When the urge hits it may be the first time that you realize you don’t have a social network as a mom. This is especially true if you’re a first time mom. Here are some ideas for making connections and finding support and friendship as a new mom.

Check out your local Meetup groups. Meetup groups for moms are happening in large cities and small towns across the country. Simply head over to www.Meetup.com and enter your zip code and keywords. You’ll get a list of the local Meetup groups in your area. With a quick click of your mouse you can join one and sign up for a few face to face meetings. Since the groups are divided by location and interests, this free website is a wonderful way to meet other moms in your local community. You’ll find all kinds of events, from weekly play groups to field trips to the fire station or zoo. These groups also do larger gatherings with spouses and older kids on weekends. For some moms, the friends they make through their Meetup group become the biggest part of their family’s social network.

See if your church offers a mom’s group. Many churches offer an informal mom’s group for members of the church. These groups may meet in the church nursery or at a member’s home. They give you a chance to meet church members you may not have interacted with before and expand your support system, which is essential to new moms. Because all the moms share the same religion, these groups can fill a need that strictly social groups can’t. These groups also help the kids connect as they get older and help them get more involved in the congregation.

Join a community-based parenting class. Most areas offer low cost or free parenting support groups based on the age of your child. These groups help you connect with other moms who are at the same parenting stage as you are. They are led by a volunteer parenting expert and help you deal with issues covering everything from breastfeeding to getting your baby to sleep to helping your toddler adjust to being a big brother. Meeting other moms who are dealing with the same issues can be a huge support to new moms. These groups often turn into play groups once the formal program is over.

Find a new mom workout group. One of the things that lots of moms are trying to do is get back into shape after having the baby. Finding a group where you can bring your baby with you to work out is the perfect way to connect with other moms and work on your weight and exercise goals, too. For instance, an informal stroller walking group might be the right choice for you. It will get you and your baby out of the house, let you enjoy some fresh air and provide a relaxed way to get back into an exercise routine. The low impact nature of a walking group also lets you talk to other members during your walk so you can build friendships while you exercise. You may want something more challenging, so you might choose a cross training group where you can run and do strength training exercises using your body weight. Because your baby should be at least six months old before you run with him in a jogger stroller, you may have to wait a bit to take one of these classes.

Join a play group. You may not have thought about joining a play group because your baby is too young to really interact with other kids. However, these groups are just as much for you as they are for your baby. Although the babies won’t play with each other for several months, they still can enjoy parallel play and getting to know each other. Plus you’ll have the chance to get to know other moms and make new friends. Often, these play groups stay together as the kids grow and don’t break up until the kids head off to school. Both moms and kids grow close over the years. Moms often feel the other moms in the group are like extended family, and the relationship between the kids is like cousins rather than just friends.

10 Medications Pregnant Women Should Avoid

aspirinPregnancy is a joyous, exciting time in a woman’s life. It’s also an altogether uncomfortable one, especially when there are health complications or unexpected illnesses involved. The same medications that you reached for without a second thought before conception are no longer safe for you to take, something that you may not realize when you’re not feeling well and haven’t consulted a medical professional. These are 10 of the medications that pregnant women should never take, unless they’re under the close supervision of a medical professional who has prescribed them because the benefits of treatment are believed to outweigh the risks of taking the medication.

  • Aspirin – Both aspirin and ibuprofen are common pain relievers that are available over the counter, but they’re not considered safe for use by pregnant women. On occasion, low-dose aspirin therapy may be recommended for some pregnant women. As a whole, however, aspirin does interfere with the way blood clots, which can lead to both maternal and fetal bleeding in some cases.
  • Thalomid – Unless you have leprosy or a rare form of cancer, there’s almost no chance that your doctor will prescribe Thalomid. What you may not realize, however, is that Thalomid is the brand name for the drug thalidomide, which was once used to treat a variety of symptoms in pregnant women. The substance causes severe birth defects and is classified as a Category X drug, meaning it should never be prescribed to, used or handled by pregnant women.
  • Accutane – Accutane is a popular drug used to treat cystic acne, and one that doctors heavily counsel women about before prescribing due to the fact that it can cause severe brain and heart defects and a host of developmental issues. If you plan to become pregnant or are not taking precautions to prevent pregnancy, it’s extremely ill-advised to continue taking Accutane.
  • Castor Oil – One folk remedy for a long pregnancy is a large dose of castor oil, which is believed to stimulate labor. It can, in fact, cause uterine contractions and often does stimulate labor, but it’s also a powerful laxative that can cause diarrhea, dehydration and vomiting. Abdominal pain and cramping can also accompany the use of castor oil, which means that it’s just not safe to use this method of naturally inducing labor unless you’ve been advised to do so by a midwife or obstetrician that’s carefully monitoring your condition.
  • Chlorpheniramine – While chlorpheniramine, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter allergy and sinus medications, is classified as a Category B drug during pregnancy, it’s not advised for women in the third trimester to take the medication. If the medication is taken in the last two weeks of pregnancy, it can cause some eye problems and complications in newborn infants, especially those who are premature.
  • Pseudoephedrine – The Slone Epidemiology Center at Boston University found that one of the most commonly used drugs during pregnancy, pseudoephedrine, has been liked to ear, heart and digestive tract birth defects when taken during the first trimester. In fact, the risk of these defects is up to eight times higher when pseudoephedrine is used, according to the supervising physician who oversaw the study, Dr. Allen Mitchell.
  • Appetite Suppressants – When you’re gaining weight rapidly and your body is expanding to accommodate the new life growing inside it, the idea of continuing to gain weight can be a terrifying one. What you shouldn’t do, however, is turn to appetite suppressants or thermogenic diet pills. In addition to the small risk of depriving the fetus of essential nutrition, these drugs can often contain high levels of caffeine, which has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage.
  • Warfarin – Because it passes through the placental barrier and can cause fetal bleeding, the drug Warfarin, also known as Coumadin, is contraindicated during pregnancy. It can also cause skeletal abnormalities, facial disfiguration and developmental disabilities. If you plan to become pregnant or are not taking active precautions to prevent becoming pregnant, you should discuss alternative treatments and possible pregnancy complications with your primary care provider.
  • Simvastatin – More and more women are becoming pregnant later in life, which can introduce a host of complications when it comes to medications for existing medical conditions. If you’re on medication for high cholesterol, especially simvastatin, you should discuss the risks involved in the event that you do become pregnant. Simvastatin is a Category X drug, and can cause abnormal fetal development.
  • Danazol – Used to treat endometriosis, danzanol is a synthetic hormone that is contraindicated during pregnancy due to the possibility of masculinization of a female fetus. If you’re taking danzanol, it’s imperative that you discuss the risks in the event of an unexpected pregnancy. You should also be sure that you don’t handle danzanol during a pregnancy, and that you consult your physician immediately if you believe that there’s a chance you could become pregnant.

How to Know Your Baby Feels Full

babyfullNew parents often worry whether or not their baby is eating enough and if they are still hungry after feeding. After all, your baby is growing so quickly, who’s to say that she doesn’t need more milk today than she did yesterday? It’s not like she can communicate her needs verbally, so you have to be able to read her non-verbal cues.

When it comes to formula, a good rule of thumb is to feed your baby two and a half ounces of formula per pound of weight. So, if your baby weights 10 pounds, she should have 25 ounces of formula per day. Of course, your baby may want a little more or a little less, but this is a good rule of thumb. Once you know how much your baby typically needs, it makes knowing whether she is consuming enough much easier. Because you can see the milk disappearing out of the bottle, you can feel fairly certain of how much food has gotten into your little one.

With breastfed babies, knowing if they have gotten enough milk can be a bit trickier. Babies should nurse every two or three hours, or eight to 12 times per day. On average, breastfed babies take in about 25 ounces of milk per day, but this number can vary slightly. Therefore, if you want to be completely sure your baby is taking in enough sustenance, you can try pumping so that you can measure the milk and see how much your baby is actually eating. Remember though, when it comes to breastfeeding, you really cannot over-feed your baby. So, if your baby wants more milk or wishes to eat after just one hour instead of two, go ahead and feed her.

With all that being said, before you start calculating weights and ounces or shopping for a new breast pump, you can look for other signs that will indicate that your baby has gotten enough to eat. Interestingly enough, your infant’s behavior can be the best signifier of her full belly. Here are some tell-tale signs that your bundle of joy is feeling satisfied.

  • Your Baby Appears Content –You can’t argue with a smiling, cooing infant. If your baby seems gratified, chances are she’s feeling happy and fulfilled. When your baby is hungry or uncomfortable, she will let you know it in no uncertain terms. Therefore, if you find your baby is quiet and shows no signs of distress, you know her tummy is filled.
  • Count the Diaper Changes – A baby that is eating enough will wet six to eight diapers per day and have regular bowel movements. Breastfed babies can have up to 10 bowel movements a day during the first couple of months, while bottle fed babies will have about six. As the baby gets older, she can have as little as one bowel movement every other day. As long as it is regular, you are usually okay.
  • Sleeps Well – One of the most common worries parents have is that their baby has not gotten enough to eat because they fell asleep during a feeding. It does happen fairly often that a baby dozes off after just a few sips of milk, however, this baby will usually not sleep for long. She will typically awaken shortly after dozing off, crying to eat more. Assuming your baby has had some full feedings throughout the day, if she falls into a restful sleep, she is usually full.
  • Awake and Alert – Just as with adults, if your baby is hungry she will not be able to concentrate very well. If your baby seems dazed or inattentive, she may still be hungry. On the contrary, if she is very focused on a toy or seems fascinated by her hand, she is almost certainly well fed.
  • You’re Turned Down – Babies know how to say “when” If you try to feed a baby that’s already full, she’ll typically reject your offering by turning her head away or pushing the nipple out of her mouth with her tongue.
  • Gaining Weight –The best way to know your baby is eating enough is by her weight gain. If she is growing and gaining weight as she should, then you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that your baby is full most of the time. If, on the other hand, your baby is underweight and frequently falls asleep during feedings or sleeps through mealtimes, try changing her diaper or giving her a bath in order to wake her up and then try feeding her again once she is alert.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you are truly not sure if your baby is eating enough and thriving, you should seek the help of your pediatrician. If your baby is lethargic, not wetting diapers or nurses endlessly and still seems hungry and distressed, get help right away.

6 Strategies for Becoming a Morning Person

morningpersonYou’ve heard it before, even to the point of it becoming annoying. It’s something bears repeating though, because it’s got a lot of wisdom: “The early bird catches the worm.”

To some, that means nothing more than “first come, first serve.” While that is indeed true, it doesn’t begin to cover all of it. “Morning people” continually prove to be more productive, more focused and seem to enjoy a higher sense of well-being. Night owls, on the other hand, often struggle with sluggishness and drowsiness. That makes a day of work difficult — especially if your day of work consists of caring for children. When you’re tired, you’re never able to perform at your highest level.

While science tends to support the notion that morning people “catch the worm,” it also proves that you can change your habits, pull a complete turnaround and come to love getting up in the morning. Your circadian rhythm (also known as your internal body clock) is a system of routine, one that is easy to alter. Here are some strategies to guide you:

Remind Yourself Why You’re Doing It

When most people resolve to change this or that about themselves, they often lose perspective and forget why they decided to make that change in the first place. In doing so, they lose motivation. Visions of success fade from their mind, and their inspiration fades.

Don’t fall into this trap. Continually remind yourself why you are making the effort to alter your sleeping habits. Maybe you finally want to be able to keep up with your three-year-old’s schedule. Maybe you want to be able to have a more positive morning experience with your spouse or children, especially on the weekends. Maybe you just want to be able to come home from work without feeling sluggish. Whatever it is, visualize the benefits and let them pull you toward success.

Set Clear Goals

The professional world often talks about S.M.A.R.T. goals — those goals that are specific, measurable, achievable/attainable, results-oriented and time-bound. In other words, it’s not enough to say “I want to be a morning person.” You need to set a specific goal, measure your progress and give yourself a deadline to be successful.

People often fail to accomplish goals because they lose focus. Organization, with clearly defined goals and sub-goals, can help fix this. Again, it’s all about perspective.

So don’t just tell yourself, “I want to get up earlier.” Go about it gently, and divide the process week-by-week: “For the first week, I’ll get up at 8. Second week, 7:30. And for the third week, I’ll get up at 7.”

Congratulate Yourself

Parents might find it easy to heap praise on children, but tougher to save some for themselves. After all, no one is there to tell you how capable you are of completing any goal you set for yourself.

Well, if no one else will, then do it yourself! That’s right. Before you go to bed, remind yourself that you can do anything. You got this! Talk yourself up and give yourself plenty of encouragement. Your goal is to renew your motivation and keep it strong long enough for you to succeed.

Reward Yourself

This one is simple. Since you’re waking up early, you’re going to have more time in the day, and you’re also going to notice a change in your entire schedule. As you develop your new sleeping habits and as you progress toward your new life, don’t forget to reward yourself. Maybe that means using your extra time in the morning to pursue a personal hobby, like working out; maybe it means putting a dollar in a jar every day you wake up early and then buying yourself something when you reach your goal. Do whatever you consider a reward — as long as it isn’t going back to bed. This reward will help pull you out from under the covers, and it’s something to look forward to in the long run.

Get a Good Breakfast

Two of the most important aspects of altering your sleep schedule are diet and exercise. An efficient and healthy diet ups your energy in the morning. When you wake up, your body has to go through a “warm up” period. Your metabolism and blood sugar are low, so it’s a good idea to boost the re-energizing process as much as you can. Kick off your morning with something simple but energy-friendly, like Greek yogurt filled with blueberries and granola. There are dozens of tasty options, though, and it’s all about finding what works for you. This is your chance to kick off your morning the right way. Plus, a good breakfast is something to look forward to, and another reason to hop out of bed.

Don’t Forget to Exercise

A great way to raise your energy levels, give you a regular reason to get out of bed and improve you health is to start incorporating an exercise regimen into your morning routine. This might sound torturous to some (especially bleary-eyed parents who already feel short on rest), but if you stick with it, you might learn that nothing gives a person more energy. It is the best boost to that warming-up phase. More importantly, it boosts energy and floods the brain with dopamine, which relieves stress. Extra energy and stress relief? What more could you ask for?

Typical Immunization Schedule for the First Year

immunizationsDuring your baby’s first year, the pediatrician’s office can begin to feel like a second home. It seems that even if your baby is perfectly healthy all the time, you still have to be there quite often for well visits. During these check-ups, parents are often told their babies will be receiving shots. Typically, pediatricians hand the parents some literature on the vaccines scheduled to be given at the beginning of the visit and send a nurse in at the end to administer them. This does not allow much time to go over the paperwork and obtain a good understanding of the shots or the diseases they’re meant to prevent. It also does not allow much room to mentally prepare for the baby’s inoculations and the cries that will surely follow.

In order to feel better prepared and to ensure you are on track with your baby’s shots, here is a typical immunization schedule for your baby’s first year.

  • Birth – The first immunization is generally given at the time of birth, and this first shot contains the first dose of the hepatitis B vaccine. Hepatitis is a serious illness that affects the liver and can be fatal if contracted. This vaccine contains thimerosal, also known as mercury. Your baby will eventually need another dose at one or two months of age.
  • Two Months – This well visit usually contains a high number of vaccines being administered. Sometimes, doctors will combine more than one vaccine into one shot in order to reduce the number of injections. At this age, you can expect your child to receive the second dose of the hepatitis B vaccine. Additionally, the first dose of the rotavirus vaccine will be administered. Rotavirus is an illness that most people refer to as a stomach flu that causes of severe diarrhea. While not usually fatal, rotavirus is more dangerous to infants and the elderly. Next, the first dose of the Hib to prevent haemophilus influenzae, a disease that typically affects children under the age of five that can cause meningitis, pneumonia and infections of the blood, bones and joints, is given. This injection contains trace amounts of formaldehyde. An initial dose of DTaP for Diphtheria and Tetanus is also administered. Diphtheria is an upper respiratory infection that can be deadly, while tetanus is a bacterial disease that affects the nervous system. This vaccine contains aluminum hydroxide and thimerosal. IPV is given for Polio, a disease that can cause paralysis and even death. This vaccine also contains trace amounts of formaldehyde. Finally, an initial dose of PCV13 for pneumococcal will be given. Pneumococcal is known as the number one preventable cause of death in infants and children under five, according to the World Health Network. This disease can cause pneumonia, infection of the blood (bacteremia/sepsis), middle-ear infection (otitis media) and bacterial meningitis.
  • Four Months – At four months, your baby will receive the second doses for all the first dose shots she was given at two months. These include rotavirus, diphtheria and tetanus toxoids and acellular pertussis (DTaP), haemophilus influenza type B (Hib), pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) and polio.
  • Six Months: –Yet a third round of immunizations is given when your baby is six months old. Your child’s doctor will probably also suggest an annual flu shot. If you opt for her to receive the flu vaccine, it is often split into two shots because it is the first time the child is receiving it. You can usually request this shot in the thimerosal-free version, which has much less mercury in it than the regular vaccine. So again, your child will be receiving Hepatitis B, Rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, PCV13 and IPV.
  • One Year: When your baby turns a year old, she will be due for the MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Var (Varicella or chickenpox), PCV and Hib vaccines. Measles, mumps and rubella were once quite common childhood illnesses, and all three can lead to serious and potentially fatal complications. Chickenpox, also known as varicella, was also very common until fairly recently. While most recovered fully, this disease could occasionally lead to severe skin infections, scars, pneumonia, brain damage or death. The varicella vaccine contains aluminum.

Now that you have a brief overview of what vaccines you can expect to be given to your baby during her first year, you can prepare by doing further research into the vaccine, its ingredients and the disease it protects against. You can also write down any questions you have for your doctor before heading into the appointment. Don’t ever feel bad about asking questions or obtaining second opinions when you visit a medical professional; after all, your child’s health and wellbeing are at stake. Ultimately, your child’s well-being is in your hands, and obtaining objective information on your child’s health is one of the best things you can do as a parent.

How to Dress for Your Baby Bump

maternitywearBeing pregnant brings many challenges to a woman’s life. Moms-to-be have to deal with more than just a baby bump. During pregnancy, the body changes in a variety of ways. The belly grows, the breasts enlarge, joints loosen and feet become larger. All of these changes can make choosing clothing seem like a daunting task.

Fashion vs. Comfort

Fortunately for today’s expectant mothers, switching to maternity clothing no longer means being relegated to frumpy loose dresses, baggy shirts and sweat pants. Just about any fashion statement that can be made on a regular day can also be made during pregnancy. Maternity wear can be hip, formal, casual or businesslike depending on the types and styles of clothing chosen. It’s possible to find maternity clothes in all styles that are just as flattering as the outfits that many women already have in their closets.

Balancing personal style with comfort isn’t as hard as it may seem. Many non-maternity outfits can be worn during the early stages of pregnancy and still look great. Comfortable tank tops, T-shirts, sweaters and button-down shirts are all options for days when Mom needs a relaxed look. “Relaxed” is an acceptable fashion statement as well, as long as the clothes fit well and flatter the body. Even with a growing baby bump, a good pair of jeans and a classic t-shirt can make for an attractive casual outfit.

Shopping Tips

Because maternity clothes are temporary, most women don’t want to invest too much money in buying a whole new wardrobe. That’s where thrift stores and consignment shops can come in handy. Women often give away or sell their old maternity wear, and a bargain shop can be a great place to snag deals on designer styles. Making pre-pregnancy clothes last longer is another way to save money. Inexpensive support bands for growing bellies make favorite jeans and trousers wearable for a few extra months.

The main thing that any mom-to-be should remember when shopping for pregnancy clothes is that style is personal. Sticking with the colors and designs that already look good is a surefire way to be fashionable with or without a baby bump. Black, white and other neutral colors are all fine, but women shouldn’t be afraid of trying bright colors and patterns as well. Outfits that are all one color can be very flattering, especially if the fabric is a little bit form-fitting. These outfits accentuate the growing baby bump and show that pregnancy can be beautiful.

Pregnancy Fashion Must-Haves

Keeping a few go-to items in the closet makes it easier to choose outfits through all phases of pregnancy. Expectant moms can rely on these items for both fashion and comfort:

• Comfortable t-shirts. Having at least one tee in a favorite style ensures that there will always be a shirt that goes with everything.

• Men’s button-down shirts. Whether bought new or borrowed from a significant other, these shirts are an essential part of casual pregnancy style.

• Tunic-style wrap sweater. Tunics are flattering on any body shape. Choosing a wrap-around style gives pregnant women room to grow without sacrificing fashion.

• A good pair of jeans, perfect for everyday wear.

• Stretch pants. Provided they’re stylish and flattering, these comfy pants look fabulous throughout all stages of pregnancy.

• Dresses and skirts that emphasize the legs. Elongating the body helps to balance out its changing proportions.

• Fun accessories. Necklaces, bracelets, belts and even handbags let Mom show off her personality and help her to feel sexy every day.

What Not to Wear

Dressing during pregnancy means considering fashion “don’ts” as well. One of the biggest mistakes that many pregnant women make is buying clothing that doesn’t fit anywhere but around the belly. Baggy clothes make the rest of the body look bigger, which can make the wearer self-conscious. The trick is to avoid anything that looks like a bag or sack. Instead, focus on choosing clothing that’s flattering but still offers room for the body to grow during each trimester. Don’t buy uncomfortable clothing just because it looks good. Discomfort shows and will detract from the overall impact of an otherwise attractive outfit.

As far as sweats are concerned, there’s nothing wrong with having a good set on hand. Though wearing them out in public is still a big fashion no-no, it’s important to be able to be comfortable around the house, whether resting or performing daily tasks.

Stepping Out in Style

The bottom line when dressing for a baby bump is to focus on personal style. Being pregnant is a whole new experience that’s meant to be enjoyed. A good, comfortable wardrobe that embraces a woman’s changing body and allows her to relax takes the stress out of baby bump fashion and makes it easier to enjoy what each day brings.

9 Tips for Helping Your Kids Adjust to a New Baby

babybrotherGetting ready for a second child (or third, or more) means going back into high-gear prep mode: stocking up on baby clothes, setting up a nursery, going through all the hospital visits, etc. In all that activity, it can be surprisingly easy to overlook one of the most important parts of your life: your other children. Whether you’ve only got one other child at home or you’re juggling two or more children, it takes some real work and planning to help an older sibling adjust to a new baby. Your older child’s life will change as radically as yours will, but he won’t necessarily have the emotional tools to handle that change well. That’s where you come in. With the right guidance, you can help your child adjust to the new baby just fine. Here are some tips to remember:

Listen to their feelings (especially the complaints)

Your older child will have a lot of opinions about the baby. (A lot.) He will likely complain about your time being monopolized by the new child, the way the baby cries, and just the overall ways that life is changing. Don’t ignore these comments. Instead, let your older child vent and express himself to you. In response, talk with him honestly about what’s happening. Tell him you understand that the change is hard, that you still love him and that you know he’s still getting used to sharing his parents with a new person. If you ignore his complaints, you run the risk of teaching him to repress his feelings, which can lead to bad behavior or outbursts.

Ask for their input

Kids love choices because they present the illusion of control. (In other words, you won’t let your child choose any meal in the world for dinner, but you can let them pick between two pre-approved choices.) Carry this over when the new baby comes. Ask your child for input and “advice” when dealing with the new baby. The goal here is to help your older child feel included and like a valuable member of the family with opinions to contribute. By emphasizing his skills, you can help him feel like a team member.

Let them help out

Similarly, let your older child help with the new baby. Obviously, you can’t outsource infant care to a child, but you can let your older child participate in baths, diaper changes and other tasks that come with new-baby territory. This will give your older child a sense of pride and accomplishment; he won’t be fighting for your attention, but actively helping while he spends time with you.

Read books to your kids about the situation

Explaining the myriad of changes your household is about to go through will take some time. A great way to help this process is to read books about babies and birth with your older child. Talk about newborns, mommies and how families grow. Use these reading times as a chance to answer questions and encourage open talks about what’s happening.

Talk to them about the story of their own birth

Kids love to hear stories about themselves. When you’re preparing for a new baby, talk with your older child about what it was like when he was born. Tell him how excited you were, how much you looked forward to meeting him and how much he’s changed your life. Use that as a springboard for a discussion about how similar things will happen with the new baby. The goal is to help your child see the pattern of family growth, love and acceptance.

Set aside special time for your older child or children

It doesn’t have to be much — something small once or twice a week can work — but find room in your schedule for a special activity with your older kid. Some play time, park visits, story hour; whatever it is, make sure it’s a regular appointment. This way the older child won’t feel forgotten.

Don’t devalue your older kids

It’s inevitable that baby-related tasks, chores and medical visits will eat up a lot of your time. Don’t let this turn your older children into a lower priority, though. When you can steal a free minute without the baby — if the little one is napping or being looked after by the other parent — use that time to spend with your older child. It doesn’t have to be much, and it doesn’t have to be a major event. Something as simple as sharing a snack or talking about your day while you take a break will work just fine. It’s a way to show you’re still interested in the whole family, not just the new baby. Your older child will definitely appreciate it.

Let them become individuals

Don’t be too quick to force your older child to spend time with the baby. The older child will want to establish his own identity in contrast to the infant, which sometimes takes the shape of ignoring the baby altogether. Let this play out until the older child eventually changes his tune.

Don’t shy away from messy moments

The emotionally messy ones, that is. (You’ll already have plenty of physically messy ones with the baby.) If your older child has a total blow-up one day, let him cry it out and get rid of the bad feelings. There’s a good chance his inner turmoil has been triggered by the mass of emotions he’s feeling about the new baby. That’s totally normal, and you should encourage healthy displays and investigations of these feelings. This is going to be a big learning opportunity for everyone.

Expanding your family is a big deal, but it doesn’t have to be hard on your older children. Remember: they just want to be loved and acknowledged. Show them that they’re part of the family.

5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Baby Journal

babybookThe first few years of your baby’s life are typically the most heavily documented, which is why baby journals have remained a perennial favorite for new parents. Recording each milestone along the way not only allows you to track the rate at which your child is reaching them, but also provides you with a wonderful piece of memorabilia when your child is no longer small. The world is a rapidly changing place, however, which means that the old-fashioned baby books of years gone by are no longer the only option for new parents with a penchant for journaling. Before you snag the first journal off the shelf, these are five of the things you might want to consider.

  • Ease of Use – Between midnight feedings and frequent diaper changes, early parenthood isn’t known for being rife with free time. That means that, by sheer necessity, you’ll need to choose a baby journal that’s easy for you to use and update on the fly. You’ll need to be able to make new entries or update existing ones in the little amount of time you’re able to carve out while Baby is sleeping or with the grandparents, so make sure that you choose one that doesn’t require a ton of work. An intricate journal filled with calligraphy will be a beautiful keepsake in theory, but in practice is more likely to end up abandoned as you go about the business of parenting.
  • Convenience – A large, cumbersome book makes for a great accent on your bookshelf, but may be little more than a blank book taking up space if it’s too difficult to manage. You’ll need to choose a journal that’s easy to handle and convenient to update. If you’re constantly glued to your smartphone, a digital journal that you can update on the go may be the most efficient route for you to take. Stay-at-home parents who aren’t as tech-savvy may find that a traditional journal is the best choice. The method that’s most convenient for you will depend largely upon your lifestyle, so take it into account when you’re choosing a journal.
  • Method By Which the Journal Will Be Updated – If you hate your handwriting, aren’t a confident speller or don’t like the idea of keeping a physical book around to collect stains, spills and mishaps, a digital journal could be the solution to your quandaries. Parents who aren’t so invested in technology or who like the idea of physically writing out the chronicle of their baby’s first year, however, should consider a traditional baby book.
  • Storage and Organization – In homes where space is at a premium, adding another clunky book to the shelves may not be the best idea. A digital journal that’s backed up online or on a removable storage device also isn’t prone to damage or loss in the same way that a physical journal may be. Consider where you’ll be storing this precious information and how you want to organize it while you’re choosing the journaling option for your growing family.
  • Customization Options – Artistic and creative parents may want something with more of a scrapbook feel than a clinical run-down of milestones and feeding schedules, while minimalist parents may find that they have little patience for the frills and cutesy feel of a heavily decorated baby journal. Think about the level of customization you’re looking for and how much you want to manipulate the pages. Digital and physical journals alike will all have different levels of customization ability, so think about what you’re looking for and the options available to you through the journals you’re considering.

In the end, the type of journal you choose should be a reflection of who you are as a parent and what will best fit your lifestyle. The last thing you’ll want is a baby book with the first few pages filled out and the rest left blank, or a book that doesn’t accurately portray your baby’s new life. Make sure that you choose wisely, as you also won’t want to take time out of your busy schedule as a new parent to transfer information into a new journal if your first choice proves to be less than efficient.

5 Signs Your Newborn is Overstimulated

cryingnewbornBringing a brand new baby home from the hospital is definitely a learning experience, especially if you’re a first-time parent. Learning to read the cues of a newborn isn’t always easy, and it’s a skill that usually comes with practice. Because babies come into the world with a nervous system that’s not yet mature, they’re not able to regulate the way they perceive outside stimuli in the same way as older children and adults. In the first three months of life, it’s easy for an infant to become overstimulated, which can cause them to become distressed and to have a difficult time calming down. Keeping your newborn happy is a delicate balancing act between providing her with the stimulation she needs to develop and protecting her from an abundance of stimulation, which will more than likely leave her tearful or even inconsolable. Recognizing the signs of over-stimulation can help to clear up some of the mysteries behind normal baby behavior, making it easier for your new family to fall into a calm and productive routine.

  • Her Breathing Changes – Just as your breathing speeds up when you’re excited or exhausted, so can that of your newborn. Look for subtle changes in her breathing pattern, especially if the rhythm changes from slow and soft to a more rapid pace. Her movements may also become more choppy and jerky, especially if she’s on the verge of crying due to feeling overwhelmed and confused.
  • She “Spaces Out” – A newborn’s first line of defense against over-stimulation is often to stare into space when there’s too much going on around her. Rather than trying to process the flood of information, your baby may seem aloof and disinterested in attempts to get her attention. Rather than panicking that your child isn’t bonding with you or is showing signs of developmental disorders, try to understand that a baby who shuts down is probably feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed.
  • She Refuses to Engage – When a newborn refuses any attempts at getting her attention, looks away when you’re trying to interact with her and just doesn’t seem to engage, she’s probably overstimulated. This behavior may be especially prominent in loud spaces, when she’s been in a swing or bouncer, or anytime she is otherwise stimulated more than normal. Remember that some babies will find swings and bouncers soothing, while others just find them overwhelming. If your baby seems to regularly be overstimulated after a session in her swing rather than dropping off peacefully to sleep, it may not be right for her.
  • She Cries Inconsolably – The mysterious crying fit is the bane of many a parent’s existence, especially since it seems to come with no explanation or noticeable solution. A crying infant who can’t be consoled by rocking, gentle speaking or other means of stimulation may actually be overstimulated, so your attempts to distract and comfort her may just be fueling the fire. Try reducing the amount of stimuli she’s subjected to, swaddling and cuddling her close with limited movement.
  • Her Complexion Changes – While every screaming baby gets red in the face from time to time, flushing or complexion changes when your baby seems relatively calm could be a sign that she’s getting too much stimulation and is overly excited. Much like breathing and movement changes, subtle changes like flushing and redness can be a sign that it’s time to calm your newborn by getting her into a more soothing, calm environment.

Because no two babies are exactly alike, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding how much stimulation a newborn can handle. Some babies will seem largely unfazed by external stimuli, are able to sleep almost anywhere and never seem to be bothered by constant chattering around them. Others may have very low thresholds for stimulation, especially those with physical differences or who were born prematurely. Over the course of your baby’s first weeks, you will become adept at reading her behavioral signs, and will be able to tell with reasonable reliability when she’s had too much stimulation.