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Home, Safe Home

Today we had a great discussion at our meetup group: Central Connecticut New Parent Resources about home safety with mobile babies. As I went to recap it for those who could not attend, I realized it was too extensive to post there and decided this might be a good place to share our ideas.

We discussed how different philosophies of parenting leads to decisions about “baby proofing”- everyone will encounter someone who doesn’t agree with any particular approach (for example an aunt or grandparent who will say “I’m not moving that-just say “No!”) While saying “No” is a necessary and important part of parenting, it is a draining (of energy) part of parenting. Research has shown that each time we have to make a decision, it depletes us. (When I read that research, it became crystal clear why the new parents I help become overwhelmed, they’ve made at least 10 decisions before breakfast!) So when we make decisions about “baby-proofing” our home, we need to balance our needs to have a some spaces that still feel like our own (adult spaces), and some spaces we can relax, knowing this is a space our babies can safely explore independently. It can and often should be a gradual process, changing as the baby grows and the needs change.

Everyone agreed the nursery should be a safe place. Other thoughts included making one living space a safe area, such as sun room, family room, or living room, and making the kitchen lower cabinets baby safe with plastic stacking bowls and pots and pans, which also make great toys!

Inside the home, there were lots of ideas. We discussed furniture with sharp edges can have foam attached or removed. Light weight furniture, which can fall if pulled upon, can be removed temporarily.  Heavy furniture, which can be pulled on top of a child if climbed upon, and some will climb,  can be bolted to the wall. Windows can be blocked with furniture, panels, or even cardboard. If there is a window that can be pushed through, it is not going to qualify for the “safe, unsupervised” area.

Moms agreed that life-threatening hazards, such as electricity,  should get immediate attention. Electrical outlets can be covered with products from the store, table lamps with cords can be removed or put in high places with cords out of reach. Electrical cords are fascinating to toddlers, as are the games of testing our limits as we try to teach them “no”.  While we may sometimes indulge them in the game of “keep away” or “I dropped it, you pick it up”, we discussed that if there is ever a time to be scary stern and even slap a hand, it is when the child tests a life-threatening limit, such as a fork into an outlet or running into the street.

We also talked about safety outside. Play-yard-ed quilts can protect against many outside hazards like unknown pesticides, bugs, and tiny choke-able stones. Sunscreen, sun-protection fabric, hats, beach umbrellas, “One-Step” tents and fitted sheets on top of  Pack and Play beds all protect sensitive skin from burns. It was suggested to include meat tenderizer and baking soda in first aid kits for bee stings, and to prevent by being aware of juice cups attracting stinging insects.

We left with the awareness that bumps, bruises, and possibly even a few ER visits are in our future, and we are and will still be good Moms. While we do our very best to keep our children safe, we also know they will grow from all the painful bumps and bruises along the way, gaining confidence in their own ability to cope.

 

 

Hope for “Blue Mamas”

LogoWe weren’t sure any one would show up: we had mailed post cards and letters, thumb-tacked flyers, told the press and every pediatrician and obstetrician we could think of; but still-it’s hard for Moms to get anywhere, especially if you are feeling “Blue” (and even harder at 7:30 am!)  Yet they did come. And began the journey of healing. In a safe place: a place where you aren’t alone, a place to share the struggles of feeling like you should “be happy” and yet frequently feel like crying, and  a place to share the challenges of sleep deprivation and interruption. With time: time to talk about how hard it is to communicate your feelings to those who don’t understand,  time to share how awful it feels to believe that you are the only one who feels this way-all of the other moms look so happy, and time to listen to others who share their “not so happy” feelings. My co-facilitator, Annie Keating-Scherer, LCSW, and I had met at a Postpartum Support International training in December, and had immediately hit it off, thrilled about our shared passion for helping new mothers. Mothers who often expected that having a baby would be the most wonderful time in their lives, yet struggled with perinatal mood disorders and/or the challenges of pregnancy and postpartum adjustment.  We commiserated about the lack of support groups in the area: only two in the state, each meeting once monthly, the “Blue Mamas” group through the Family Wellness Centers in Middletown and New Britain. Annie joined our CT Perinatal Mental Health Work-group and we began to planning a support group in the Hartford area.  We were given permission to use the “Blue Mamas” name, so we can develop a recognition of its goal and purpose throughout the state. The other two groups are offered on Saturday mornings, and child care is provided at the Family Wellness Center.  In my experience as an organizer of Central CT New Parent Resources Meetup, parents are reluctant to give up Saturdays, especially after Moms return to work. They also have a hard time getting out in the evenings-everyone is exhausted.  Women who come to me for help with perinatal anxiety and mood disorders are able to get support regularly until the end of their maternity leave, then feel torn: they want to spend all the time they can with their babies, rather than going to therapy or support groups.  So we decided to test an early morning time during the week, so that it might be possible for women to come before work, or go into work a little late on support group days. Our Blue Mamas group began at  7:30am-8:30am on Thursday on March 20th, which turned out to be the first day of spring.  And they came. And shared. And gained hope. Please let others know about Blue Mamas, so they can gain hope too.  Call me at 860 331-1750860 331-1750860 , or Annie Keating-Scherer, LCSW at 860 212-7066860 212-7066 for details.

Strong Loving Relationships Benefit Our Babies!

On January 8th, Central CT New Parent Resources Meet Up launched 2013 with the hope and promise of nourishing parent’  relationships with each other “after baby”.  My husband Andy and I had a great time speaking with these loving parents about their greatest gift to their babies: strong relationships with each other. Moms and Dads were eager to know how to keep their marital/partnership relationships strong while giving their babies the time and attention they need. It is SO important; two out of three couples report decreased satisfaction with each other after babies arrive.

Everyone “knows” that a strong couple’s relationship benefits babies, but many are surprised to learn that babies of unhappy parents can suffer developmentally and have a harder time learning to soothe themselves.  Babies who are cared for by parents who are content with each other have parents who are more attentive to them; who more easily respond to baby’s cues and are able to tolerate babies’ crying with more patience.  It is essential to give your relationship the time and attention that it deserves: it is the foundation of your growing family.

The core of our discussion included Dr.s John and Julia Gottman’s “3 As” of affection, appreciation, and admiration, along with our two additional “A’s” of  acceptance and attention. These are some of the essential ingredients for our “recipe” for a strong, loving relationship.  We will explore these principles and more in our spring workshop at Blue Back Square “From We to Three”: registration is limited, click here to register today.

 

 

Free Support Group off to a Heartwarming Start!

My heart warmed as they trickled in, one expectant Mom, here for the first time, then a familiar face with her 4 month old, then yet another Mom new to the group with her new son, one after another until we had almost filled our cozy space with three expectant Moms, 6 Moms with babies in hand (one with Grandma holding her twin baby:).  They all braved the forecast of a Nor’easter to hear Dr. Christine Greene advise how to get started with healthy eating habits with their young families, and to see connect and provide support to each other during this time of transformation.

It is the last scheduled meet-up for Central CT New Parent Resources; the last 6 weeks have flown by as we met each week, learning about infant massage, recognizing babies’ cues and needs, breastfeeding, taking care of ourselves, and healthy food choices.  I explain that we will be meeting this year one more time with husbands to talk about “Nurturing Your Relationship After Baby” and then would take a break from speakers until mid-January, when we will start another cycle of 6 sessions, the content determined by results of polls on our Meet-up site.

As we see flurrying snowflakes through the window, courageous, loving Moms hurry out with babies and gear bundled. Their chatter and warm support contrasts with the cold air as we hurry home to avoid the storm. Join us.

Baby Whispering!

 

                     What do we do now??!

I remember when I brought my daughter Rachel home; I was both overjoyed and terrified. I wanted to be the best parent I could possibly be, and felt overwhelmed by the awesome responsibility of my new role.  Back then, I really could have used some time with a supportive group of other parents which included an experienced parent or two, just to talk.

We’re so grateful that Jennifer Vendetti, MSW, has agreed to meet with our Central CT New Parent Resource group this Wednesday, 10:45am and lead the discussion on “Baby Whispering”: how to figure out what babies need and want and how to provide it.  We will talk about such things as “how much crying is typical?”, “what if the crying doesn’t stop?” and “what can I do to help calm my baby (and myself) down?”

New babies and Expectant/Moms &/or Dads of new babies are welcome to come to share, laugh, and even cry in the comfy family educational room of the Emanuel Synagogue (open to the entire community, no religious affiliation required).  Please pass on the word about this wonderful opportunity for support, absolutely free.

Free Support and Resources for New Parents!

Central CT New Parent Resources Group

Supporting You Support your Baby!

Through the MomSource, LLC,  many new parents have found support through private consultations and  “From We to Three” workshops  on nourishing the couple’s relationship as you become a family. In addition, many  have sought assistance in my clinical practice.

Yet so many more need support and access to resources! We hope that the FREE Central CT New Parent Resources Meetup Group (www.meetup.com/Central-CT-New-Parent-Resources-Meet-Up/) will fill this need.  Please go to the link and join! We have some sessions planned but need YOUR input to make it the group that “Meets the Need”.   The Emanuel Synagogue has generously agreed to host the first six meetings on Wednesday mornings from 10:45am-12:00pm, beginning October 3, 2012.  We have amazing speakers and topics:

October 3rd:  Sharon Thomason, PhD:  My Baby, My Self

October 10th: Jennifer Vendetti, MSW:  Baby Whispering

RSVP

October 17th: Sarah Thayer, LMT, CD: The Power of Touch

October 24th:  Susan Forrester, MA, IBCLC:  Feeding Our Baby

October 31st:  Jennifer Magnano, Mamoga Wellness:  Baby Fit

November 7th:  Christine Greene, PhD: Eating for Us

 

Life After Baby!

Staying Active with Kids!

I heard an interview yesterday with Jane Roper, author of  “Double Time“, her memoir about surviving and thriving after the birth her twin daughters.  In the interview she stated that her biggest worry, when she  discovered that she was having twins, was “Is this going to completely take over my life?”  This common concern shows how, while we are excited about becoming parents, sometimes we are aware that HUGE changes are coming, and there is often anxiety about the losses which coincide with these changes.

I remember being worried when we were expecting our daughter that we would not be able to do things we enjoyed together, such as  hiking, camping, and travel.  We were able to continue to do these things by throwing her in the sling, stroller, and a little later, the backpack and bringing her along-to Vermont, New Hampshire, and even to California when she was 13 months-she took her first steps in Yosemite National Park.

Our lives did change dramatically and significantly after her birth.  We were particularly not prepared for the strain on our relationship.   Though we muddled through by getting help and by sheer determination, after weathering those and other storms,  my husband and I feel committed to helping couples prepare for this transformation proactively.  In our mini-retreat offered between Mothers’ Day & Fathers’ Day , couples will strengthen their relationship skills: communication, expressing affection, and conflict resolution.  Proactive planning (before baby)  for getting support and developing family routines will free up energy needed  day-to-day to enjoy your newborn!

With an adequate foundation of a strong relationship, practice of good communication skills and expression of affection, and plenty of planning, couples can enjoy increased intimacy as they grow their families.  And loved activities will be picked up again, sometimes with slight modifications.  When we celebrated our 25th anniversary last week with a trip to California (without kids!), my husband and I saw a couple with babies in backpacks.  I asked to take their photo so I could pass it on to you. There IS life after baby; it’s just different!

Beat the Odds: Your Marriage CAN be even BETTER after Baby!

Love Your Relationship: Love Your Baby

Many researchers have found that marital satisfaction decreases after the transition to parenthood.  Dr. John Gottman observed that a whopping 67% of couples were unhappy with their relationship after their babies arrived!   The foundation of the family is the parent relationship.  If that partnership suffers, each individual in the family, particularly the baby, suffers. To paraphrase Dr. Gottman, The best gift parents can give to their babies is a strong relationship with each other.

With these points in mind, I am so excited about our “mini-retreat” offered in a few short weeks. A condensed version of our full weekend retreat (offered this fall), our “From We to Three Mini-retreat for Expectant Couples” is a great value for local expecting couples who can only devote one day to concentrated practice of essential relationship skills.  During our morning session we will focus on practicing key communication skills, discuss the challenges of the transition to parenthood, how to access important resources, and skills to nourish and deepen your relationship.

After an extended lunch break when couples may walk on the Farmington Valley Greenway, pose for their free digital photo, and get (optional) chair massages, certified doula and massage therapist, Sarah Thayer will teach partners how to help the mothers manage discomfort of labor and delivery with demonstration and practice of hands-on techniques.   We will end the day with further discussion of your family dreams and goals.  Sound great?  Register Today!

PPD Training for Doulas

  On March 7, I had the pleasure of meeting with postpartum doulas from Birth Partners Doulas and spoke with them about postpartum depression and anxiety.  What a wonderful group of caring and nurturing women! We discussed the multiple contributions to postpartum adjustment challenges, blocks to getting help, and communication techniques that open the door to discuss feelings of all kinds, not just the “good” ones.  I feel so grateful that there are now more resources like these committed women to help families grow with joy! Call if you would like me to talk with your group about how we can better support new families.

Recipes for less Stress and More Joy!

I REALLY want to gather a collection of easy recipes for new parents: healthy and easy preparation is critical to decrease stress during that time that you are too tired to think.  On the MomSource Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-MomSource/145887487287?ref=tn_tnmn) I posted a link to a recipe  (delicious white bean and kale soup) in hopes that others would post their favorites; now I am considering a contest to help boost motivation.  What would be a good prize to motivate posts?

Please go to our Facebook page to vote or comment below regarding which (as many as you would want) of the following prizes would motivate you to take the time and post your favorite healthy, quick and easy recipe. The possible prizes are: 1) A gift certificate for “WE time” daily retreat offering practice in nurturing your relationship during your transition to family, birth “comfort measures”  to use in labor, and a photography session for belly or newborn photos. 2) A gift certificate for  “From We to Three”  workshop for expectant/new parents  offering practice in nurturing your relationship while you transform into family. 3) A gift certificate for a MomSource consultation in your home  to determine your needs for support after baby and develop a plan.  4) a gift certificate for a food processor/soup maker to use after baby arrives.  5) a gift certificate for 10 free yoga classes in a West Hartford studio. If you choose more than one motivator, please  let me know which is “the best” by listing it first!  Thanks for your time!