Blog Archives

The Importance of Sleep

March 4, 2013

boy sleeping with teddy, sleeping wtih stuffed animals, boy sleeping, trouble sleeping, kids sleep problems,This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family. We’re kicking off Sleep Awareness Week with the benefits and importance of sleep.

Sleep can be one of those things, “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Kids resist naps and bedtimes, but busy, fatigued adults crave a chance to lie down.

Introducing Happify :-)

February 6, 2013

happify trademark, happify logo, what is happify?, so do I get happy?, happiness projectIt’s finally time to introduce you to Happify! Two months ago, I was invited to try out Happify and provide honest feedback as I used the site and now Happify is open for new users! Check it out here.

Happify is a cross between a new social media, an interactive game and a shared (or private) gratitude journal. The site is based on scientific studies of happiness that show that what we DO makes a difference in how happy we are in life. Through quizzes, games, prompts and activities, participants on Happify learn ways, and take actions, to be happier and to better appreciate things in their lives.

There is an initial assessment of how happy you already are. I’m pretty happy by nature, so I wasn’t out looking to get happier, but it’s also important to actively do things to nurture my own happiness. I have really enjoyed doing these small activities as a reminder to slow down and appreciate just how much I have in my life.unlock your happiness, happiness skills, happiness test, studies on happiness, how to be happier, blue brain, join happify,

Starting out, users select a track to follow. You can choose from things like: Enjoy Parenting More, The Art in Happiness, Talkers and Listeners and Nurture my Body and Soul. You’ll then have different activities opened to you each day. If you’re gung-ho and ready to do more, there is also a skills section where you can do more activities. I completely cracked up one day when I just kept doing more and more activities and a message came up that congratulated me and addressed me as “You’re an over-achiever!” Hilariously on target!

There are five main skills and all the activities fall under one of these: Savor, Thank, Aspire, Give and Empathize. As you work through different tracks (here’s the video game-like part) you earn gold or silver for completing tracks within certain time frames, and you move up different skill levels as you finish and “Happify” activities.

You’ll do guided activities with prompts like, “Take a walk with a camera,” “Mix things up,” “Give a small gift,” and suggestions for doing and reflecting on what you did. Some things are silly like trying to brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand to try to shake things up in your normal routine, while other things might be more sentimental, pensive, or celebratory of you or someone else. Some activities are quick, some you make a plan and pledge to do it then report back after you’ve done it. At any point, you can click and read the science behind the activity, the “Why it Works.”Happify, the science of happiness, studies on happiness, brain with gears, colorful gears, what is happify?, happiness assessment,

You can post pictures with certain activities either from your Facebook photos, Happify stock images or by uploading something from your computer, here the posts look a little like Pinterest with social interaction features for liking and commenting.

I’ve been enjoying my time on Happify. It’s nudged me to really mull things over, to cherish the everyday ho-hum stuff and to share my happiness in different ways. It’s challenged me to recognize and acknowledge my positive impact on others and to consciously live according to my values. Give it a try!

 

** The opinions stated here are my own and I was not required or asked to write a review, only to use the site. As a pioneer tester of Happify, I received a t-shirt and a copy of the DVD “Happy.” **

 

 

Workout from Home with Ana Caban

January 22, 2013

I’m happy to introduce you to this reasonably priced workout from home program with top trainers to the stars.
In full disclosure, I have not received payment or free goods or services in exchange for this guest post.
Ana Caban, Inc. is offering discounts for Mother’s Circle reader, see end of this post for discount codes.

Guest Post from Ana Caban, Inc.

exercising mom, mom on orange ball, orange yoga ball, mom on birth ball, exercise after birth, postpartum exercise, exercising with kids, exercising at home, working out at home, cheap workout plans, online workout plans, It’s still January and resolutions of health and fitness are still swirling, or fizzling. Save time and money with a work out from home with Ana Caban, celebrity fitness trainer.

Sharing resolutions keeps us honest and accountable, to ourselves, and anyone else we have included in our close-knit circles. The intention is there, and we are gung-ho about waking up at six o’clock in the morning to head out for a jog before our bodies realize what tricks we’re up to.

For many busy moms, it’s almost impossible to think about how to formulate a workout schedule beyond that point. Moms of toddlers or teens are often just too busy to even think about the gym. And it’s not just the kids or a nine to five it’s the million other responsibilities, too.

What if there was a way you could workout from home without interfering with your daily routine? It makes working out sound doable doesn’t it?

Hands that Rock – The Gift of Music for Children

December 28, 2012

Please consider Hands that Rock as you make your year end donations.

hands that rock, HTR, I love you in sign language, music charity, music education, saving music education, chair massage at concerts, Hands that Rock is an organization with a mission to bring the magic of music to under served communities throughout the United States. Founded by Darcy Lynch, a Rhode Island resident, and founder of Stage Hands Massage Therapy, the organization will provide chair massages for audiences at major concerts and events with net proceeds supporting music programs in cooperation with local music outreach organizations.

Since its inception in June 2012, the six month young charity has had 390 massage therapists who have worked at 31 music festivals and events nationwide for 118 consecutive days, and raised $12,000.

Hands that Rock’s primary focus is on developing and partnering with programs concerned with music education, performance, related resources and outreach for individuals and groups in need. It will also support community initiatives associated with environmental, social and health-related concerns to help create suitable environments for the creation and performance of music.

Pause. Smile. Breathe.

December 20, 2012

woman in red, smiling wrapping gifts, how to wrap a gift, importance of smiles, breathing to relax, Christmas gifts by the fire, gold and red gift, enjoying Christmas, carpe diem ChristmasPause. Smile. Breathe.

Take a moment to pause, breathe, savor the now. This very minute, this exact place and time. Are you rushing around? Is your list a scribbled mess that keeps growing as Christmas nears?

Take this moment to pause, smile, slow your breathing and think of one thing that makes you feel grateful. Hold on to that.

It’s such a busy time of year, busier than our normal hurriedness. We have excited children, family visiting, traveling to do, cooking, baking, entertaining, wrapping, shopping, more wrapping, finishing off the cards and and and …

It’s all too fast, too busy, it takes effort to slow down and to soak in the joy of Christmas.

I’m trying to make that effort. I love this time of year, I love the music, finding the perfect gift, I enjoy wrapping packages up pretty and having candles in all the windows. I love my friend’s annual cookie swap, the Christmas Pageant at church, the festive celebrations, baking with the kids and especially spending time with family and friends. It does get busy but I choose to savor the preparations and anticipation of the Advent season. smiling woman in glasses, smile to relax, benefits of smiling, the key to happiness, gratitude at Christmas, how to be grateful, how to host a cookie swap, baking with kids

Hold onto that which makes you thankful. Amidst life’s pains and tragedies, finding something to cherish, finding gratitude, really living in the here and now, that is the key to happiness.

Merry Christmas and Happy Getting Ready!

Boob Milk is Best

December 13, 2012

breastfeeding baby, benefits of breastfeeding, children asking about breastfeeding, siblings breastfeeding, cute baby face, baby hand on faceSitting at the dinner table, my youngest, Anna, asked me why she’s the only one without allergies, and the first answer (as a doula and lactation counselor) was, “Because I nursed you for two years.” “Huh?” she asked.

So I dove right in, “That’s what boobs are for,” she giggled, “for feeding babies. Cow milk is for calves, goat milk is for baby goats and human milk is for …” I paused to let her answer, “Human babies!” Her eyes twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word nipples was also met with a chuckle.

We’ve talked about breastfeeding before many times, as a toddler she used to put her dolls to her breast routinely and if she ever used a play bottle, she’d tell me it had breastmilk in it. This discussion reminded me that in parenting, things need to be repeated and not just the pick-up-your-towel repeated, but relearned in new, age-adjusted ways. She was revisiting this topic with some more life experience under her teeny belt.

Feeding Your Family

November 26, 2012

Feeding your family is different things to different people. It’s a challenge, a joy, a stressor, a chore, a gift. I experience all of those depending upon the day. I feel fulfilled serving a balanced meal, full of nutrition, but I often resent the interruption to my day to stop and prepare it. Other times, […]

How New Moms Can Prevent Pelvic Organ Prolapse

October 11, 2012

I’m happy to offer you this guest post on how to prevent pelvic organ prolapse. Whether you’ve just had your baby or have teenagers, it’s important to build and maintain a healthy pelvic floor! No one likes to do those Kegel exercises, but here’s another reason to keep at it. Thank you to DrugWatch.com for […]

Mammograms During Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October 5, 2012

This post was originally published May 31, 2012, I am reposting it in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Take care of yourself!

mammogram recheck, breast cancer awareness month, pink ribbon tree, There was a message left at 1:27 pm yesterday, the day after my mammogram, “Please call us back.” Call them back? What about just waiting for that nice letter that arrives next week to tell me everything is okay?

Hours had passed and kids swarmed the kitchen as I listened to the message. I waited until I dropped them off at afternoon activities, I was alone in the parking lot and I clutched the note paper with the number of the Anne Pappas Center scribbled on it. The woman who answers is so busy she needs to call me back. “Breathe,” I tell myself and I wait. At 4:55 pm, I worried that I hadn’t heard and that they’d close for the night, I couldn’t wonder overnight, so I called back apologizing for my repeat call. She was very sweet, just very busy and promised to call me before she left.

True to her word, she called me reporting that they want to do an ultrasound, we were able to schedule it for the next day, today, two days after my original mammogram.

I have had mammograms for several years now starting with a diagnostic check of a lump in my right breast, everything has been fine with that year after year. I wondered if something had changed. I prayed. I thought of my friends who had fought and are fighting breast cancer at a young age, at my age. I thought about how the kids have giggled at me crying to the Martina McBride song, “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.”

I’m not in a high risk category; I have no family history, I had my first full term pregnancy and birth before age 30, I breastfed three kids. Breastfeeding has a cumulative protective factor and I’d nursed two babies for over a year each and my third for two years (a long time from our culture’s viewpoint, but in my doula-ing-breastfeeding-birthie world, not long enough. I digress). I’m not high risk, but, really, I know that doesn’t mean I’m not AT risk as a woman with boobs. mammogram call back, spot compression mammogram

Nervous all morning, I distracted myself by watering my vegetable garden, vacuuming, organizing my desk and making hard boiled eggs. My calendar alert nudged me to my car, I was suddenly very jittery and the drive to Providence seemed longer than normal.

Family Dinner

September 10, 2012

So much more than eating goes on during a family dinner. Communication, learning and connection are the real benefits to sharing a meal together around the table. Before we moved to Rhode Island, my husband’s job kept him out so late that we could only eat together as a family on weekends. We weren’t living […]

How Pregnancy and Postpartum are Affected by Eating Disorders

August 31, 2012

Over the course of a single spring, I worked with three women struggling with postpartum anxiety. During our time together, I learned that they all had a history of eating disorders. This connection motivated me to research and talk to women about how eating disorders affected their pregnancy and postpartum experience. [Names have been changed.]

Eating Disorders as Related to Childbearing

The two most common eating disorders (EDs) are anorexia nervosa (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN), estimated to affect 5 – 10 million females in the United States. Approximately 4.5% – 9% of women of childbearing age have a past or active eating disorder. AN is characterized by extreme calorie restriction, obsessive dieting and loss of periods. Symptoms of BN include repeated episodes of binge eating followed by purging, fasting, excessive exercise and abusing laxatives, diuretics and enemas. Both experience extreme fear of weight gain and distorted perception of body image.

Women struggling with EDs often exhibit perfectionism, obsessive behavior, extreme sensitivity, seriousness, anxiousness, self-consciousness, impulsivity, a feeling of being out of control, negative self image and a high level of self-blame. There is a strong correlation among perfectionism, anxiety and eating disorders.

While there are some contradictory study results, EDs have been linked to maternal and fetal risks including excessive vomiting during pregnancy, cesarean section, postpartum depression/anxiety, anemia, hypertension, pre-eclampsia, miscarriage, intrauterine death, preterm delivery, breech presentation, low Apgar scores, low birth weight, fetal growth restriction, small-for-gestational-age infants and slow weight gain.

Research also indicates a significantly greater incidence of anxiety and depressive disorders in women with EDs than in the general population. Shame and guilt about their illness can cause secretiveness, denial of a problem or reluctance to disclose symptoms to providers.

Eating Disorders and Pregnancy

Studies indicate that many women with EDs have a temporary remission during pregnancy which changes in the third trimester and the first three to six months postpartum, when symptoms often reemerge more severely than before pregnancy.

Understanding Milk Supply

August 16, 2012

Fenugreek for nursing is a popular Google search, and a post I wrote years ago about fenugreek is read daily by someone somewhere in the world. But really what these Moms are seeking is ways of increasing milk supply. I’m a big believer in working to get to the crux of the issue instead of […]

Healthy Snacks for Kids

August 13, 2012

Kids love to snack, and as Moms, we want to give them healthy snacks that they’ll like to eat. I have to say that I get made fun of a little for the unusual things my kids like, so I know I have it a bit easier than others, but maybe one of these healthy […]

Memory Scars

July 2, 2012

horseshoe crab, creating with horseshoe crab, creative bucket, homemade basket, boy on beach, blue shirt, carrying shells, beach treasuresScar. The word feels negative, ugly, damaged, but our scars tell stories of our lives, they mark our bodies with visible memories. The life events that engraved themselves upon us in scars are not usually positive and pretty, they can represent deep pain and profound endurance, but they can also remind us of our gifts, our strengths and our humanity.

Growing up, we tritely feel and behave as if we’re indestructible, but as children, our scars teach us about our bodies in space: how high can we climb, when to release on a rope swing, the importance of knee pads. I have two skid marks 20 years after my first attempt at rollerblading. (Lessons: don’t wear roller blades 3 sizes too big and don’t ride through the sandy spots.)

My perfect little boy’s face has a small stripe across the bridge of his nose. In a creative spurt, I made a scavenger hunt for my daughter and son (then six and four) and while searching for a bug, they discovered a hidden shovel that a contractor had left behind. As I turned to look, I saw my daughter try to maneuver the too-big shovel, slip it off the hard ground and strike my son’s face as he leaned over inquisitively. (Lesson: hmmm, move fast if you see a small kid with a big shovel.) Michael’s nose scar is a part of him now, it’s more subtle as the years pass, but sometimes we remember the day when “Ali hit me with a shovel.”

cupcakes, blue and yellow cupcakes, flower cupcakes, flower baking, beautiful cupcakes

Every Month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

May 31, 2012

There was a message left at 1:27 pm yesterday, the day after my mammogram, “Please call us back.” Call them back? What about just waiting for that nice letter that arrives next week to tell me everything is ok? Hours had passed and kids swarmed the kitchen as I listened to the message. I waited […]

Proceed with Caution: Fenugreek and Breastfeeding

January 27, 2011

What is Fenugreek?

breastfeeding support, guidance with breastfeeding, breastfeeding help, learning to breastfeed, lactation, feeding new babyFenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an herbal supplement that is claimed to be useful for a broad range of various conditions, without any substantial scientific evidence, from baldness, constipation, and heartburn to diabetes, cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. The focus here, is the widely held belief among lactation advisors, nursing mothers and other birth professionals that fenugreek helps to stimulate milk production and supply.

The fact is, there is not enough evidence to suggest that fenugreek is effective for any use. Of the few studies that have been done, they have been small and inconclusive. So, does the fact that there is no data or research mean that fenugreek has no benefit? No, not inherently. Similarly, just because it is an herb and “natural”does not mean that it is safe.

Milk Supply and Galactagogues

First, let’s explore the idea of increasing milk supply. Initially establishing supply is a specific and balanced dance of hormones and receptors that begins the moment the placenta is delivered. Milk supply is determined by the removal of milk from the breasts and the interplay of prolactin (which produces the milk) and oxytocin (which releases the milk). Frequent nursing is directly associated with greater infant weight gain. (DeCarvalho)1

breastfeeding baby, benefits of breastfeeding, children asking about breastfeeding, siblings breastfeeding, cute baby face, baby hand on faceAs Americans, we often look to something outside of us to find a solution, often that’s in the form of a pill, whether prescribed or purchased at a health food store. Often, the answers lie within us or in behaviors such is the case with breastfeeding. It is far more effective for a mother struggling with supply to work with a lactation professional and look at all aspects of her nursing relationship. For example: How often is the baby being fed? Is the mother expressing her milk and how? How much milk is being removed from her breast at each feeding (determined by weighing baby before and after a feed)? Most important is a mother’s confidence. With desire, confidence and early breastfeeding support, a healthy, rewarding nursing relationship with a sufficiently plentiful supply is more likely.

Millions of women across nations and generations, living under impoverished conditions, famine, holocaust and natural disasters, are able to produce and supply their infants with their own human milk regardless of the mother’s nutritional status. Advice that guides nursing mothers to drink more to be able to produce more milk is erroneous: “Encouraging women to drink excessively has no effect upon lactation, either in terms of yield or composition of milk.” (Dearlove)2 Healthy eating and balanced nutrition are good advice throughout the life cycle, however, this directive during lactation benefits the mother and her long term health but does not impact milk supply.

Is there really such a thing, then, as a galactagogue, an external substance believed to increase milk supply? The American Heritage Medical Dictionary defines galactagogue as “an agent that promotes the secretion and flow of milk.” Many elements that are believed to help milk supply are based in cultural lore and not supported through research. In a literature review of galactagogues, Anderson and Valdes3 concluded that “If mothers are provided education and practice techniques that support lactation physiology, galactagogues appear to have little or no added benefit.” It has long been purported that fenugreek is a galactagogue, but it has never been proven to help milk supply and may have worrisome side effects. fenugreek tea

Side Effects

Some reported side effects of fenugreek include diarrhea, gas, indigestion, heartburn and unusual smelling skin and urine (like maple syrup). More serious, but more rare, side effects can indicate internal bleeding such as black, tarry or bright red stools, or vomiting blood or can indicate a bleed in the brain (hemorrhagic stroke) such as vision or speech changes, severe headache or weakness or numbness in the arms or legs. As with any herbs, always be aware of allergic reactions.

It’s important to note that fenugreek is a legume and those who have peanut allergies may experience a cross-reaction. Dr. Frederick Leickly, an allergist, writes in his blog about a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI) which concluded that a sensitization to fenugreek was believed to have been caused by a peanut allergy in patients. He also noted in his practice a reverse effect, “that the fenugreek may have worked in the opposite direction – fenugreek exposure causing sensitization to the other legumes,” meaning it is possible that the use of fenugreek may create an allergy to peanuts or other legumes.

In Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs and Natural Supplements, by Linda Skidmore-Roth, it states that Fenugreek “may cause reduced absorption of all medications used concurrently.” This could cause harm in a mother taking medication for thyroid function, blood pressure or birth control pills.

Traditionally, fenugreek has been used to stimulate labor, so it could potentially cause preterm labor or miscarriage if taken during pregnancy. Fenugreek is classified as category 4 for pregnancy which is defined as “no increase in frequency of malformation or other harmful effects on the fetus from limited use in women. Evidence of increased fetal damage in animal studies exists, although the relevance to humans in unknown.” It is classified as a category 2A for breastfeeding which is defined as “compatible with breastfeeding.”

As with all herbs, fenugreek has not been tested or verified by the FDA for safety, effectiveness or purity; there have been cases when herbal supplements have been contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. There is no official standard or oversight of manufacturing.

Conclusion

It is not fully known whether fenugreek can harm a nursing infant and it is not proven to have any positive effect on milk supply or nursing. Focusing on breastfeeding support and education as well as working with nursing moms to empower them and build confidence are effective ways to help a mother establish and maintain a nursing relationship.

References:

1. De Carvalho, M et al: Effect of frequent breastfeeding on early milk production and infant weight gain. Ped 72(3) Sep 1983.

2. Dearlove, J C & Dearlove, B M: Prolactin fluid balance and lactation. Br J Obstet Gyn 88:652-54, 1981.

3. Anderson and Valdes, 2007, A Critical review of Pharmaceutical Galactagogues. Breastfeeding Medicine, 2(4), 229-242.

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