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Modern parenting is a joy but a challenge. We're here to help you accept and problem-solve the painful parts of mommying so you can move on to really enjoying life with your kids, spending less time on your to-do list and more time on the things that really matter.
July 10, 2018
This weekend, I learned a powerful lesson in motherhood perspective. My family woke up stressed. Both my kids and my husband were going for a week to the coast with their grandparents while I stayed behind to work. The flight was scheduled for 11:45 a.m., so at 10:15 we were in high-gear trying to get everyone out the door and ready for the big adventure. Like it always goes, my husband and I were a bit curt with each other as one we tried to make last-minute additions to our suitcases and keep the kids occupied at the same time. My toddler kept pulling everything out of the luggage and throwing it up in the air with glee.
“Rain, mama!” she squealed.
“Feeling a little on edge?” my husband smirked as I sighed heavily in her direction and tried to pry her fingers off her make-believe tropical storm props.
I felt myself trying to get back to mindfulness as we raced the clock.
Finally, we made it out the door but, closing our fence behind us, I saw something was missing. Something big. In fact, two things.
“Where are our cars?” My big girl asked.
I looked around, sure we had just forgotten where we parked them the night before but slowly it set in. Our cars were gone. Vanished without a trace. Kaplouf!
Yep, someone stole both of my cars right from in front of my house. Had we dropped the keys on our way in the night before? Our minds raced to retrace our steps.
As we scrambled to the airport in a taxi and started making calls to the police and our insurance company, my daughter burst out into tears.
“Someone took our cars? They took our things? Why would someone do that to me? I love our cars!”
(By the way, our cars are not fancy in the least, she just gets strongly attached to her stuff.)
I may not have been in tears, but I was feeling the same exact way: completely violated and totally helpless.
As we zipped along the highway, though, I realized I had a unique opportunity to reframe our situation, not only for my children but for myself.
First of all, I saw how petty and small-minded I had been when we were preparing for the trip earlier that morning. Yes, we’d had a plane to catch and yes, my baby was cramping my style and my schedule, but my level of annoyance was in no way commiserate with the level of inconvenience I was facing. It reminded me of how often I handle all the other situations I referee with my kids (squabbles, tantrums, and power-plays) in the same over-the-top, reactive way—and that I can choose to treat my kids’ infringements like life-threatening emergencies, reacting abruptly without perspective, or I can choose to treat them like the minor hiccups that they (usually are).
Second, I realized this was an amazing opportunity to teach my kids about prioritizing people over possessions. While my daughter worried about the loss of our vehicle, I worried about the loss of our financial security. My immediate thought was, “Do I have comprehensive coverage? How much will this cost me?” And, though those things are important, my child’s question about why someone would choose to take something that belongs to someone else helped me get to a place of deeper appreciation about what was NOT taken (my children), about what had NOT happened (a house break-in, a major car accident). Because she got so, understandably, focused on our things, it helped me pan out to the wider picture and end up….thankful.
Lastly, I was able to give my children some insight into why things get taken, opening the door to an in-the-moment conversation about how we prepare for emergencies, accidents, and mayhem. About why we save some money and set it aside just “in case.” About how there are people out there designated to help us when things go wrong. About how sometimes isn’t all about enjoying the roses, it’s also about overcoming the thorns, building resilience along the way.
It made me think back to when I was a new mom, working out the details of breastfeeding, trying to make sense of sleep cycles and colic. I remembered how easy it was in the small, stressful moments, to think small. About how much better motherhood got once I started looking at the big picture, focusing on coping with versus changing my new mom day-to-day reality. About how all of us, when we’re mothering, can’t control everything, but can control our perspectives.
Life’s not fair. It’s never going to be. And, while I’m not quite sure that “everything happens for a reason” applies to a robbery taking place literally in my front yard, the events of this past weekend, did, in the end, help me gain an even clearer vision of what’s important and what’s really not—and of how to teach my kids to understand why things ultimately don’t matter: the people we love do.
If you are a new mom or an expectant mom, getting perspective and having the right expectations is one of the most important things you can do. Want more? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care for Your Infant and Yourself.
June 28, 2018
Women in the U.S. need all the help we can get when it comes to breastfeeding success. We live in a nation whose relationship with lactation is highly paradoxical —the societal pressures are high to exclusively breastfeed but real, practical information on how to make it go right and how to tell if things aren’t going right is spotty, to say the least. When I meet new moms in the hospital, I’m always trying to educate fledgling nursers on the most important rule of all: babies need to eat.
You’re probably thinking that sounds pretty basic. Obviously babies require nutrition. But, exactly how much they need to eat and when they need it often gets significantly more convoluted. Thankfully, we can set ourselves up for breastfeeding success by understanding a few basic principles around newborn nursing needs. Let me break it down for you:
In the first few days to weeks, babies need to have a feeding attempt at least every three hours. We call it “three hours start to start” in my office – that is, it should be no longer than three hours from the start of one feeding to the start of another. Babies will often want to feed way more often than that, which is great and perfectly okay, but at the very least they need that every three-hour cueing. That means, set a timer when you start feeding your infant in the first few days. Three hours later, you need to start feeding again, even if your last feeding session only ended two hours ago.
Breastfeeding is a two-way feedback loop. The first feedback loop is for the mom; the more a baby’s suckling stimulates the breast, the more milk the mom’s body makes.
The second feedback loop is for the baby: the more the baby eats, the more food it takes in, the more alert and hydrated the baby, driving hunger and allowing the baby to eventually regulate its own feeding needs.
People are constantly taking about letting newborns breastfeed “on demand” – that they should drive their own hunger and can do so. That breastfeeding should be natural.
That’s totally true…eventually. But, in the beginning, a baby needs help to get her system going. Breastfeeding IS natural, but it’s not usually easy in the beginning for a new baby or a new mom – both have to learn new skills and how to “rev up the system.”
There’s also a ton of talk in the new mommy world about how a baby’s stomach is really small at first and they don’t need much milk. About how they really only need tiny bits of colostrum in the first few days.
That is absolutely true. Babies are often sleepy in the first 24 hours after they are born, mom’s milk hasn’t come in yet, the system is set up so that there’s a little grace period.
But here’s the catch – that is the time to prime the pump(s) by nursing frequently so that the milk actually does come in and so that baby is alert enough at day three to four so they can take the milk mom starts making.
In some cases, if that doesn’t happen, blood sugar levels can drop, making babies lethargic and harder to feed. Babies can get dehydrated, contributing to jaundice (the yellow color that can develop in a baby’s skin).
Breastfeeding success isn’t quite that simple (believe me, I wish it was—it would have saved me a lot of time and money in lactation services with my first baby). Consider these factors as well.
Keep your baby active at the breast. You may need to stimulate your baby (tickling baby’s feet, using a cool washcloth at the forehead, getting baby undressed down to the diaper, rotating her arm gently) to get your baby to feed effectively (otherwise, they may burn energy on sucking without getting much back in return).
Of all the advice I offer, this is the most important. Get help from the get-go with latch. Ask your nurse at the hospital to position correctly the first day. Ask for a lactation consultation right away (not day two or three) if you have any concerns at all (this is pretty much every new mom I meet, so don’t feel like you have to have major worries in this area to justify getting extra assistance. Sometimes, you don’t realize the questions or issues you have until an expert helps you out).
Like I’ve said before, if you lived in a home with all of your breastfeeding friends and experienced breastfeeder family members, you wouldn’t need all this outside help but, the reality is, you probably don’t. Lots of moms worried about they are a bother if they ask for help but that is not true at all!
When a baby is born, we expect that they will lose up to 10% of her initial weight at birth. This occurs because, in the beginning, they don’t get much milk because their moms’ bodies haven’t gotten the message that there is a baby yet and the baby has minimal needs in the first few days. When the milk comes in (at about 72 hours), the weight starts to come back up again. If your baby loses more than 10% of her birthweight, you need assistance.
By about day 3-4 of life, we expect milk to come in for most moms. You’ll know your milk is in because the poop will be changing, you’ll start to see your baby really swallowing when he is eating, and you may see milk at the corner of his mouth. If that isn’t happening, again, it means you need help.
All babies have a very floppy connection between their feeding tube or esophagus and their stomachs. This is called the pylorus. While for some babies, this connection valve can be too tight, causing something caused pyloric stenosis (a very serious condition that needs to be treated right away—projectile vomiting is the hallmark sign of this issue), for most babies, the valve is loose for awhile before the muscles firm up and it causes them to spit up.
This is normal and, (as long as the spit-up looks like digested milk, not bright yellow/green or bloody) although it creates a huge laundry problem, it’s not a problem for the baby. Sometimes, though, if your milk is coming out super fast (called overactive letdown) or if your baby is spitting up all day very day, it can make it uncomfortable for your baby to eat. A lactation specialist can help you assess this and give you tips for positioning and for decreasing the flow to your baby, if necessary.
Breastfeeding success, even if you follow every single piece of good advice you hear, is hard work. Sometimes, despite doing everything “right,” it’s still a huge struggle for new moms, contributing to a sinking feeling that they’re “lesser than” other first-time mamas out there and setting the stage, for some, for postpartum depression and anxiety. The truth is, breastfeeding is only a small part of motherhood—a part that is easier to approach and problem-solve when you have credible resources and knowledgeable support at your fingertips.
We want to help you build your confidence and set realistic expectations for breastfeeding and beyond when it comes to your new infant and your new mommy role. Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care for Your Infant and Yourself, for information on lactation, infant sleep, and newborn care.
Want more? Sign up for our new mom guide here!
June 13, 2018
This morning I joined KATU News’ AM Northwest to talk about my new book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself, aimed at new moms. The host, Helen Raptis, asked me to explain the inspiration behind the project, so I laid it all out there (as I always do). Check it out here.
Before I became a mother, I was a pediatrician. I trained at Stanford University, I worked hard and logged countless sleepless nights. Naively, I thought I was ready. Then I entered the world of new moms. To be honest, I entered it with a bit of cockiness. I thought all my training, all my experience, and all my education would make me the perfect mom. At my baby showers, people teased me, “Well, we won’t give you any advice. You already know it all.” I was beyond confident.
Well, you know what they say…pride goeth before a fall.
When my first daughter arrived, she was not easy. I loved her from the moment I met her, but I second-guessed my decision to change my life so drastically within about 1 week of having her. She cried nonstop, spit up constantly, and would not sleep. I can remember rocking her and holding her in the dark for hours, often crying right alongside her. Countless nights, after nursing and shushing and swaddling every 45 minutes to get her calmed, my husband would put her in the car and drive around town in a giant freeway loop. It was the only way to get her settled for any extended period of time.
It was the first time in my life feeling so completely out of control and, eventually, I started to fall pretty deeply into postpartum depression (PPD) and postpartum anxiety. I would go on a walk to the grocery store, see a five-year-old child with her parent and think, “Wow, it is really amazing that you survived to grow so old.”
That’s when I realized I needed help. I reached out to my fellow pediatrician and other new moms for advice. After a few weeks, I started taking regular chunks of time for myself away from my baby—just small trips to a coffee shop or to the park at first—so I could come back more refreshed. I did a lot of babywearing and talked to my own obstetrician about support and resources for PPD and Anxiety. When possible, I made my husband the soother-in-chief. If I wasn’t breastfeeding, he was in charge. Slowly, I changed and my daughter did, too. As she got older, she got a little easier and I got a little healthier. We emerged from a place of dark hopelessness to—not a perfect rainbow- and pony-filled haven—but to a new manageable normalcy.
I wish, looking back, that I paid attention sooner to the clues that I wasn’t quite myself. I also wish that my partner and my village understood more about what I was going through. They could have more effectively helped me if they had known more about what I needed. I also wish I had the real information I needed to be successful with my infant—information about realistic expectations, about how to take care of myself, and about how to recognize and troubleshoot the tricky, awkward parts of the newborn experience.
That’s why, starting this month, we’re partnering with Postpartum Support International (PSI), a Portland-based organization whose mission is to promote awareness, prevention, and treatment of mental health issues related to childbearing in every country worldwide. They provide support, education, and local resource information for families. Equally important, they offer training for professionals who work with those at-risk for perinatal mood disorders.
Every time you buy a book or an online course, we’re giving 5% of our profits to PSI.
If you are a new mom, you know that this journey called motherhood isn’t very elegant. It’s amazing and, sometimes, it is better than you ever thought it could be. It is also really hard. If you’re expecting, you know you don’t need scary birth or postpartum stories to get you through the first days and weeks with your infant—nope, new moms need real help and real guidance.
Remember, if you are struggling with PPD or Anxiety, you are not alone. Ask for assistance, seek out support. Rely on the others around you. Take a giant step back and take a breath. You are an amazing mom, even if motherhood is not exactly the way you thought it would be.
May 31, 2018
I’d had about enough with the toddler tantrums. My daughter was in some type of angry zone, upset at the world, mad at everyone. She woke up on the wrong side of the bed—again—and we wound up in some spiral tug-of-war of wills. Sobbing, she screamed and refused to brush her hair—I could handle all that. Then she threw a small book at her toddler sister, hitting her in the back and leaving a mark. I felt myself almost lose it. I couldn’t handle the toddler tantrum.
When someone, even someone you love, intentionally hurts your baby, the feeling that surfaces (brace yourselves, it’s about to get real here) is RAGE. I’ve never felt that way toward my own daughter until the book incident ensued. It was a feeling of confusion, of desperation. A feeling that I must be doing this mom thing all wrong, that I need to go to stinkin’ parenting school myself, that I’m a mom fraud.
My initial gut reaction? To scream, be mean back, and move immediately to punishment. I wanted to treat my firstborn like the enemy or a monster.
That’s not what you expected? Me neither. It’s definitely not the picture of a perfect pediatrician, but it is the truth because it turns out, I am human. As it also turned out, I thankfully remembered at that moment, so is she. She is so much more than her toddler tantrum. Well, actually, a little song started playing in my head that helped remind me.
“People make bad choices if they’re mad or scared or stressed. But throw a little love their way, and you’ll bring out their best. True love brings out the best.”
Sound eerily familiar? Yep, the Frozen soundtrack was my saving grace at that moment (I knew that movie would be good for something one day). Seriously, as cheesy as it may sound, that tune has it exactly right when it comes to early childhood behavior and successful parenting. It’s the crux of emotion coaching and of collaborative problem solving: an assumption that all people want to do and be their best but that traumas, circumstances, skill deficits, and developmental immaturities keep them from it a lot of the time. An understanding that our most important parenting goal should be to coach our kids toward desired behaviors, not to punish them for their ineptitudes.
Think about it this way: if you were in charge of a beginning-level soccer team and one player hadn’t eaten breakfast, leaving him without any energy, and he couldn’t run down the field, would you get mad at him or would you feed him? Missed a goal… would you sit him out of the game or would you work on his kicking skills? If he had an incomplete pass, would you run over in the middle of the game and explain in an irritated voice how he failed or would you use the next practice to build his skills? Storming onto the field in a fit of anger would not only be inappropriate, it would be ludicrous.
When you are a good coach, you think about where your player is going, not where they are now. You work with them toward the goals you share, and you consider it your role to teach and guide. We have to think about our parenting in the same goal-oriented way if we want to be successful.
Does that mean we just let our kids run free and wild, hurting others along the way, with no accountability? Not at all. Does that mean we bend to every unhealthy request our kids make? Not in the least. Do we never get angry or upset? That’s impossible. It does mean that we first think of our children as fellow-people, who usually act out based on feelings and needs, not spite.
There is almost always time to stop, get ourselves peaceful, and then move to action.
In those whirlwind moments of toddler and preschool parenting, the fears that we’ve been storing down in the depths make their way to the forefront of our minds quite often. But fears like my child is on a path toward a career as a complete sociopath or my kids will never love each other, while seemingly real in the moment, are hardly ever based in reality. Remember, aiming for perfectly-behaved kids is unrealistic and unfair. We can’t let our fears dictate our in-the-moment parenting responses.
It’s perfectly okay to say to your child, “Mommy feels scared and angry right now. I need to take a second to calm down.” In fact, when we consistently acknowledge what’s going on for us inside and demonstrate how to deal with the raw feelings we have in nonviolent, non-harmful ways, we are showing our kids how they can do the same.
“Jill is frustrated she can’t play with that toy right now” or “Owen is disappointed he can’t have an ice cream today.”
When our kids use inappropriate methods to express their emotions and get their needs met, we help them find an alternative solution. “We don’t hit. We don’t yell at our loved ones and friends. Can you think of another option?”
A book to the back of a sibling? In my house, that is a line we don’t cross. However, time-outs don’t have to be angry, drag-out power-struggles. They can be a chance to help kids stop and get control of themselves. Check out tips from Zero to Five author Tracy Cutchlow on the topic here. If we do set a consequence for an action, we make it logical and attainable (like taking away a privilege or helping to clean up a mess that was made), not far-fetched or punitive for the whole family (“That’s it! No playdates for a month!”).
“You’ll need your hair brushed before we can leave. You want to keep playing right now. What should we do?”
The toddler years are full of magic and wonder, but they can also be full of stress and turmoil. When your kids act like little monsters, first attend to your own emotions, learn to respond versus react, and use tantrums and “bad’ behavior first and foremost as teaching moments—steps along the path to emotional self-regulation and effective problem-solving. If you do, you’ll build a team of healthy, resilient human beings.
May 18, 2018
This month, I’ve been doing a lot. More than I usually do. And I’ve been getting a lot of questions for parenting advice about how I do it. On the surface it looks like I’m up to my ears promoting my book, staying active on social media and writing blog posts. I’ve also had a ton of questions about how I balance a side-business with my full-time physician job and my two young kids.
My secret weapon? The key to my sanity? I don’t do it all. I know that, if I did, I would be unhappy, stressed and, ultimately, not very successful at anything. Instead, I live by five guiding life and task management principles. You can, too, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working woman or a mix of both. Here they are:
Prioritize Your Priorities
This may come as a shock but, it turns out, I am not Beyoncé. I do not have a full staff of assistants working for me, an unlimited budget, or a private jet. Nope, I have a real life with pressures and demands. Some demands and pressures loom a little larger than others, taking up more mental energy and time than they should. Instead of letting those demands run me, I try my best to keep them in check.
The best way to do that? (1) Have a super clear sense of my priorities. (2) Get clear in my own head about, not just what I have to do, but what I want to do. (3) Limit my 100% level efforts to my top three priorities and let the other items on the priority list act as icing on the cake. (4) Be honest comfortable enough in my own skin to care less about meeting others’ expectations of my priorities than about being true to my needs and goals. You can get more information here about our self-care survival guide and other free parenting resources.
Find a Passion
My daughter came leaping downstairs this morning, full to the brim with excitement. “Do you think I could strum my ukulele a few times before school?” she asked hopefully. I had to laugh. Usually, my girl is like a slumbering bear in the early hours (turns out she takes after me in more ways than one)—hard to wake, easily aggravated, and difficult to motivate. But something was different today. We signed her up for ukulele lessons last night and even bought her a used instrument, complete with a small wooden dolphin decoration and sparkles embedded in the paint. She found a passion. And passion changes everything.
Passion makes a difference for adults, too—particularly for moms and dads. Stuck in the day-to-day grind of parenting, the early months and years can feel like a never-evening cycle of drudgery—a song on repeat that keeps playing and playing. Our minds can get stuck in mental overload mode, even though they’re full only of the mundane. We can only take so many diaper changes, feeding sessions or nap attempts.
For me, working on my passion project (running a blog and writing a book) doesn’t really feel like work—it’s self-directed, I can do as much or as little as I want to do and it’s something I care about deeply. The same is true for most people who find a project to get excited about. Maybe your passion project is a cause you want to learn more about or be involved with, even if only virtually. Maybe your passion project is not a project at all—it’s exploring music lessons for yourself or nurturing your love of gardening. It doesn’t matter what it is or how big or small it is—it matters that you have something.
Focus on Your Strengths, Delegate the Rest
I’ll never receive an award for best housecleaner (or even a sixth-place consolation prize). Actually, my housecleaning skills are completely lacking. I’ve come to grips with this not so sad reality. Same goes for keeping close track of late start school days for my kid’s preschool, remembering to walk the dog or making lunches for myself to bring to work. You probably have some “weaknesses,” too. So what? Instead of spinning your wheels on to-do list items you’ll never get to or will never remember, delegate to the others in your house or in your proverbial village. When it’s financially feasible, hire a housecleaner. Put a partner in charge (it will be one of the best moves you ever make). Delegate, delegate, delegate and stop feeling so guilty that you’re not superwoman—no one is.
Take Full Advantage of Technology
Thank goodness we live in a modern world where, for a small fee, we can automate almost everything we do. I would wither on the vine if it were not for autopay and Amazon Prime. I also take advantage of healthy meal kit delivery systems like Sun Basket and One Potato, use my calendar reminders to keep me organized, and “read” almost everything in audiobook form.
Can technology be a negative force in your family, keeping you from spending focused, quality time with the ones you love? Sure it can. You have to treat your smartphone and your computer like the tools they are, not like the distraction they can often become.
Make Time for Self-Care
Ever notice how, when you take a weekend to unplug or even an hour to relax, you’re actually able to accomplish more in the hours or days to follow? Self-care (dedicated time spent caring for yourself—either alone or with others) is never a waste. Quite the opposite. When we re-group, relax or re-focus, we’re able to offer those who depend on us or who partner with us the very best of ourselves. We can be more present and more peaceful.
Trying to do it all or be it all? Please, please don’t. It’s such a waste of energy and it never works out how you hope it will. Something’s gotta give eventually. Instead, identify and live by your priorities, use the resources around you, and work first from your strengths. Your excellent example of imperfect balance will lead the way for your kids to eventually do the same.
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