Traveling With Baby

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Let’s be frank here — it’s not always a  picnic traveling with a baby whether or not you’re breastfeeding.  There are a multitude of things you have to remember to bring, so many you push the limits of suitcases allowed.  And invariably you forget something, and it seems like a disaster.

Two examples: Once we forgot our daughter’s portable crib on the baggage claim conveyer belt as we straggled out of the airport at midnight, ignoring her saying “bed, bed, bed” and pointing to  the luggage. We discovered our error 30 minutes later.

Another time we forgot every single pacifier we owned and which our 2-year old son depended on to fall asleep. We also discovered this at midnight, long after all the stores in the vacation town  were closed.

Of course, we easily survived both events and learned the beauty of being resourceful and spontaneous.

Photo: Bigstock

 

None of that changes that traveling with babies can be stressful. Most parents are consumed with efforts to keep their baby quiet and happy. Even a 10 minute delay on the tarmac can cause nervous sweating on the part of parents — there’s something about thinking that 150+ people are about to be annoyed by your darling that can cause nervous palpitations.

This post is mainly directed towards those with infants. We’ll save toddlers for another day.

First off, getting through TSA. You are allowed to carry breastmilk and

Photo: Bigstock

formula through security and it does not have to be stored in 3-ounce bottles. However there is no refrigeration available, which could be a concern for a long-haul flight. This excellent article from Romper points out that since there are no industry-wide regulations for airlines regarding breastfeeding and/or pumping, you should contact your airline before traveling to make sure you understand your rights.

That is a good segue into the topic of breastfeeding in public. Personally, I am disappointed that this is even a topic of controversy. Of course, as a lactation consultant I am not unbiased. But even putting that aside, I generally believe that it’s your own business how, where or when you choose to breastfeed. As anyone who has tried to soothe a hungry baby knows the only thing that is important is the baby getting fed pronto!

In the US, you are allowed to breastfeed in public situations (which would include an airport). If you are traveling abroad, you will want  to find out your legal rights in whatever country you are traveling to. I would also encourage you to find out what is considered culturally appropriate where you are traveling.

Check with your airline to find out your rights vis a vis breastfeeding, or pumping, on the plane. While I would like to believe your seatmates and flight attendants will be very understanding and supportive, it’s always good to be prepared. Also, if you are pumping, you might also want to check if you can get a cooler bag filled with ice on the plane.

Sometimes, however, mothers would like to find a private place to breastfeed. More and more airports and other public places are installing breastfeeding/pumping pods that accomodate one or two mothers with their babies.

Designed by two mothers, Mamava pods are 4 x 8 with a bench, electrical outlets, USB port, a fold-out  table, a mirror and a locking door. The accompanying app pinpoints the location of the pods. The sites include 35 US airports, 34 sports arenas and convention centers, and 34 companies, including Amazon and Walmart.

The last thing I want  this post to do is dissuade anyone from traveling with their babies. It does take some extra planning time, and some ability to roll with  the punches, but it can also be very enriching. Babies are a great conversation-starter and way to make friends.

So, plan carefully, and bon voyage!

 

The Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact

Commonly, after the birth of a newborn, the infant is put on her mother’s chest, called skin-to-skin, or kangaroo care. The baby is naked except for a  diaper, and put tummy down on the mother’s bare chest,  with the baby’s  head  turned to the side, neck straight and nose and mouth uncovered  A blanket covers the two of them.

This practice became very important in Brazil in the 1970s, when they had a very high rate of death of premature infants. However, the medical staff noticed infants who  were held by parents much of the day fared much better than their peers. It was the Brazilians who coined the phrase kangaroo care.

The practice has now become a common recommendation, for all babies, preterm or fullterm.

So how does it  benefit the babies?

Researchers have found that skin-to-skin contact:

  • normalizes the baby’s body temperature (in fact the mother’s temp rises to warm a cold baby and drops to cool an overwarm baby)
  • stabilizes the infant’s respiration and oxygenation
  • increases glucose levels, thus reducing the risk of hypoglycemia
  • regulates blood pressure
  • reduces stress hormones in mother and baby
  • decreases crying
  • encourages the baby into a quiet-alert state, which is optimal for successful feeding

And, for those of you who are breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact has been shown to stimulate milk production in the  early days.  How?

Last post introduced the topic of the hormone oxytocin and the maternal

instinct (albeit the subject was worms but the same link between oxytocin and the maternal instinct exists in humans).

Oxytocin is also the hormone that stimulates milk let-down.  The baby sucking releases prolactin,  the hormone that regulates milk production. So skin-to-skin increases the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone”, both of which decrease stress, which encourages babies quiet-alert state,  which improves baby’s ability to breastfeed, which encourages the release of prolactin, which increases the mother’s milk supply.

Skin-to-skin contact with infants and fathers also produces many of the same benefits.

Just remember, whoever is holding the baby, skin-to-skin should be awake and make sure the baby’s head is turned to the side, with  the neck straight and nose and mouth uncovered.

In the middle of the night…

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My first child was born 22 years ago, when basic cable was really, really basic. It was January, and those were some long, cold nights nursing her in the middle of the night, while I struggled to stay awake.

TV was my friend. Specifically AMC (American Movie Classics). It was either that or half-hour long infomercials. It turns out that in January 1995 AMC was running a marathon of versions of Doc Holliday and the Shootout at the OK Corral.

The first one was entertaining, the second wasn’t bad (sort of a different take on the story) but by the third film it was all getting very old.

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New parents nowadays are in a much more enviable position. They have tons of options for middle-of-the-night binge watching while feeding or soothing baby. It’s an embarrassment of riches. How to choose?

I polled a handful of friends for suggestions. Only restriction — the shows should be soothing, or at least not disturbing. We want you to be able to get back to sleep ASAP. So Game of Thrones and Criminal Minds are not included in this list.

I’ve loosely categorized the shows to make this post easier to skim. As always with parenting, time is of the essence. This post would be way too long if I provided a summary for  each show so instead I’ve linked each one to Wikipedia.

Starting with my favorites: British shows.

British dramas are ideal for watching at any time, but especially appropriate for the wee hours of the morning. They are not action-packed, and have a slower pace than many American shows. Even the police procedurals are light on violence and noise.

The Crown

Doc Martin

The Bletchley Circle

Lark Rise to Candleford

The Night Manager

Foyle’s War

Agatha Raisin

Home Fires

Delicious

Pride and Prejudice (definitely make sure it’s the 6-part BBC version with Colin Firth. You won’t regret it)

The Great British Bake Off

Next, Australian shows:

Similar to British shows in that they tend to be less action-packed than American shows, but also delightfully likeable. Also, Australians seem like people you want  to be friends with.

Offspring

A Place to Call Home

Perennially fresh sit-coms:

There are some sit-coms that stand up to the test of time, are still funny and don’t even seem dated.

M*A*S*H*

Friends

Seinfeld

Gilmore Girls

The Office

30 Rock

Arrested Development

 

 

And more recent sit-coms:

 

 

 

 

Modern Family

Blackish

Parks and Recreation

Silicon Valley

Veep

Catastrophe

Odd Mom Out

Younger

Some really good dramas:

 

 

 

 

The NIght of

Friday Night Lights

Transparent

Mozart in the Jungle

The Americans

The Get Down

GLOW

Wolf Hall

And some difficult-to-categorize but really absorbing shows:

Shark Tank

The 1900 House

CNN Decades documentaries

My hope for all parents is undisturbed nights of rest. However, circumstances differ and many parents sometimes find themselves awake when it seems like no one else is. First of all, don’t despair — this too shall end. Second of all, you’re definitely not the only one awake — there are plenty of others in your temporary boat.

In the meantime, I hope some of  these shows will help the time go by.

 

“Does everyone do this?”

Recently I read a very moving article in the New York Times  called “Maternal Instinct or OCD?”

Written by Kelly Kautz, it’s a piece that resonates in every  new parent’s mind — is my anxiety about parenthood “normal” or is this something more? Everyone checks to make sure their sleeping baby is still breathing, right? But do they check continuously throughout  the night, forgoing sleep themselves?

Eunice Pinney (American, 1770 – 1849 ), Mother and Child, c. 1815, pen and black ink and watercolor on wove paper, Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch 1953.5.112

Everyone worries about the temperature of the bedroom, the level of air conditioning in the car, the sun glare on the baby, right? But how often? And does this anxiety make it impossible to enjoy being a parent?

Ms. Kautz vividly describes how becoming a new mother triggered a resurgence of the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder she had suffered as a teenager, which she thought she had firmly under control after working with a therapist on cognitive behavior therapy. She writes how she was operating in a fog of anxiety, checking on the baby obsessively, so concerned about her baby she wasn’t enjoying her baby.

But what resonated most with me was the comments section. Reader after reader described their struggles, wondering if others were similarly suffering. Then there were the readers who counseled the writer to relax, just stop worrying, enjoy your baby. (If only it were that easy!) Or those who asked what is wrong with erring on the side of safety when it comes to taking care of an infant.

What is clear throughout the comments is everybody is empathetic, but most are also unsure of when the line is crossed into the region of a mental disorder. Is it OCD, or maternal instincts? Post-partum depression or fleeting “baby blues”?

The truth is, advice from family, friends and neighbors, while always well-meaning, can sometimes send you astray. If your feelings or anxiety is troubling you, I urge you to seek professional advice.

If you  are already working with a mental  health professional, you should alert them to your pregnancy and continue to stay in touch throughout the pregnancy and post-birth. This is particularly important if you are taking medication. While pregnant or nursing,  every health professional you work with should be aware of every medication you are taking.  That includes vitamins, OTC medications, and herbal medications, as well as prescription meds.

(As I wrote in a previous post, many medications are deemed safe to  take while pregnant or breastfeeding, but it’s important to check them all with your obstetrician or midwife and pediatrician.)

If you are not yet working with someone, you can start with your obstetrician or midwife and ask for recommendations.  You can also work with your insurance company to find a mental health professional covered by your benefits.

In addition, national organizations usually have a resource list for you to find local  professionals.

For OCD, the International OCD Foundation has a very helpful resources page with tips for looking for therapists, programs, support groups and information.

Another useful resource is the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. 

It’s also relevant to note that anxiety on the part of new parents is by no means limited to mothers and partners should be alert to their own wellbeing, as well.

The most important thing to remember is there is no reason to be embarrassed or secretive about mental health issues. You wouldn’t want  to hide hypertension and just hope it  will get better, and neither should you try to ignore mental health concerns. Work as a team with your health providers and your partner to do the best for your family.

 

Sew This Easy Gift Bag for Toy Donations This Holiday Season

The winter holiday season is a difficult time for hospitalized children and their families. It can be a time fraught with stress and anxiety and disappointment in not having everyone healthy and  at home.

Knowing this, many organizations gather gifts for the hospitalized children, to help bring joy to  the season.

My friend, Laurie, and the others  who work at the same quilt shop designate a 2-hour period and sew as many of these simple gift bags as possible.  They give them to Children’s Hospital for the staff  to hand out gifts. I timed Laurie to make sure this was as simple as it seemed. Laurie is an expert sewer but the sewing requirements are very rudimentary. She finished from beginning to end in 35 minutes with plenty of time to chat while working.

I also took photos of  each step and  will lead you through step by  step. You will want to have access to a sewing machine for this project.

 

First off, choose colorful fabric. You need a yard for each bag. Do not remove the selvedge. I chose Christmasy fabric, but one thing is certain, you  will find fabric you love at any quilting or fabric store. Buy a wheel of grosgrain ribbon for the drawstring.

Turn under the top edge 1/2 inch and press. Also do the same down a few inches on each side.

Then turn the top under another 1-1.5 inches and press. This  will be the tunnel for the drawstring. Stitch across close to the folded edge to make the tunnel. Backstitch a little at the beginning and the end.

Fold the fabric in half, right sides together. Stitch the bottom together 1/2 inch from the bottom. Then sew up the side, encasing the selvedge if you have it.

Turn the bag right side out and cut 2 yards of the  ribbon.

Use a drawstring threader or large safety pin  to run the ribbon through the tunnel. Knot the ends  of the ribbon.

And, voilà, gift bag finished!

 

Knit Your Own Infant Cap. Make a Few More and Donate Them to a NICU!

Newborns often have difficulty regulating their body temperature right after birth. Most hospitals recommend skin-to-skin, or kangaroo, care, in which the naked baby (with diaper) is place on her mother’s bare chest, between the

breasts, with the baby’s head turned to the side. They are then both covered with a light receiving blanket or cover. Mothers should not fall asleep while doing skin-to-skin, so I always suggest having someone else in the room who is planning to stay awake and alert.

But things can be a little more difficult for babies in the NICU. While in many cases, the infants are still encouraged to be held skin-to skin, there are some instances when that contact is limited or delayed because of medical care.

The staff will make sure  your baby is kept warm and monitored and  will put a

cap on your infant. We’ve all seen those cute little blue and pink  striped stocking caps the hospital gives you.

But if your baby has  a protracted stay in the NICU, or  you just want an individualized look, or maybe your baby is born in winter so you need a cap for outings, you might want to knit your own (or ask someone to do it for you!). And you (or your friend) might have so much fun doing it, you want to knit a few more to donate to your nearby NICU. A cap  you donate is given to a baby who takes it home at discharge time.

My neighbor, Maire, knit  these caps using multicolored yarn. She is donating them to our local hospital.

Of course, because it is a NICU, it’s important to follow specific guidelines. Maire used the pattern and instructions (“the infant cap”) at Ravelry.com. You do have to join but it’s free.  There is a $4 download fee for the pattern.

I am not a knitter but am assured it is not a difficult pattern at all.

Maire suggests, if you are planning to donate them, calling the NICU you are planning to donate  to and get any specific guidelines they have, especially about yarn type and washing before you start.

 

 

When Should Your Infant Be Bathed for the First Time?

If you’re a new or expecting parent, you may have heard the term “wait to bathe” for the first bath of your infant after birth. What does that mean, exactly?

When babies are born, they are covered with a white substance called vernix.

This substance, made up of cells from your baby, have antibacterial proteins to protect your baby from bacterial infections during the birth process and post-birth. It also protects the baby’s skin and moisturizes it. It is very beneficial for the vernix to remain on the baby for a period of time post-birth.

Hospitals that have instituted a “wait to bathe” protocol typically have staff wait between 6-24 hours, depending on the hospital’s protocol, before bathing your infant.

Here is a good run-down of the benefits of waiting to bathe from Children’s MD, a website from Children’s Hospital of St. Louis, Missouri.

In a nutshell, waiting to bathe helps prevent infections, and helps babies regulate their body temperature, their blood sugar and bond with their mother.

If you are interested in waiting to have your infant bathed and the hospital you are delivering at does not have a “wait to bathe” protocol in place, you can always ask to have your baby’s first bath delayed.