Posts Tagged ‘coping’

Newborn Coping Strategies

Friday, August 26th, 2016

IMG_1141The newborn days pass by in a blur. Often, parents of a newborn are so tired they could cry, frazzled from learning their new baby’s cues and trying to get into a routine, possibly stressed or sore from breastfeeding, plus working through the postpartum hormonal roller coaster. It’s hard to stop and smell the roses (or in this case, smell that new baby scent).

One thing that helped our family get through the early days was having made up meals and packing them in the freezer before hand. If you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a meal train, even better! You’ll need nutritious and hearty food to keep up and help your body heal from birth, and sometimes (most of the time), you’ll be too tired to want to mess with much.

If you can, getting help with older children from other adults is a real blessing. Just picking up your older kids and taking them to the park or a movie can give you a chance to catch a nap or even possibly have a couple moments of silence. Likewise, don’t be afraid to accept offers of help cleaning up or with the laundry. If you don’t have help, letting the laundry sit a couple days won’t hurt (though if you’re cloth diapering, this probably isn’t an option).

Try and get out and get some fresh air and stretch your legs. When my first son was born deep into the Alaskan winter, it was difficult because of snow and ice to walk outdoors, so I would walk on the track at the gym. This isn’t a fitness or weight loss activity, but a mental health activity. My younger son was born in the summer, so I could walk outdoors with him right away.

Lean on your partner (and your partner likewise) to get a little self-care time in. Shoot for every day. Before you have a newborn, you will never fully appreciate having ten minutes to shower, brush your teeth, and put on some lotion. This may not happen everyday, but it makes a huge difference in your outlook when you are able to get those few moments to yourself.

Finally, keep close watch on yourself. Baby blues are normal. If you continue to feel depressed or anxious, please reach out to your partner, family or friends, and to your doctor. It’s important to you and your baby to watch out for your mental health.

And remember to take time to enjoy that new-baby smell, it will be gone before you know it.

Meaghan Howard is a busy stay-at-home mom to two little boys and a houseful of animals. She and her family are enjoying living overseas for the time being.

When Your Baby Discovers Tantrums

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

When Your Baby Discovers TantrumsWhen I heard the fusses I thought my 2-year-old was the one who threw the toy across the room before throwing himself down on the ground in a fit of screams, but no. That would be my barely one-year-old over there, around the corner, in a full tantrum. My forehead fell into my palm as I quickly filtered through all the parenting information I acquired through my life, especially these last three years. I got nothing. Tantrums weren’t supposed to happen yet! If you can’t reason with a two-year-old, what on earth was I to do with this temporarily unreasonable heap of a barely-toddling toddler?

I took a deep breath and essentially applied the same guidelines I do on our two-year-old. I checked for anything unsafe, like more things he could throw and moved them out of the way. I essentially left him to his own irreconcilable devices for the minute it took him to calm down some. I held him for a moment and quickly reiterated “no throw.” I next consulted Dr. Google and was happy (yet sad…) to learn that I am not alone in the one-year-old tantrum. Then I assessed my part in it all.

Call him creative, persistent, or sensitive and strong…ok. I suppose I’m glad to know I’m raising a well-rounded boy. There are some aspects of growing and living in this world that you can’t prevent. Often I find there are things I can do to help or hinder his ability to cope with the world. Let me be clear: I need not do the coping for him. That’s a life-long lesson we all struggle with. I can help or hinder his experience of unnecessary difficulties at an age where he is limited in his ability to cope.

For example, he lacks many language abilities that are at the root of many tantrums. I can’t magically provide the ability to articulate his needs at one year old, but I can sense his non-verbal and verbal cues, like stiffened arms, grunting, and jerking his head to the side as he often does when showing his disdain. There are also the common triggers of being overtired, hungry, overstimulated, under-stimulated, frustration, or anxiety due to changes in routine or other circumstances.

As he has a slightly older brother, they often have common interests but very different abilities. While they both love blocks, our younger guy throws his hands up (and blocks across the room) when unable to build a tower like his brother. We play with him and assist him as he learns to play with blocks at his age-appropriate development.

We also still use language even if he can’t. We use words and then act out the behavior. I deeply believe in the value of a deep breath even at this young age. We’ll use the words “deep breath” and then exhibit the behavior to demonstrate. After a handful of times gently encouraging this, I’ve found both of our children will take that breath without my encouragement (though they sometimes still need the gentle reminder). Last, I’ve found the great use of the just-right silly song, tickle, or distraction of a new toy or thing to bring fresh perspective to his eyes.

Sometimes, just sometimes!, I also need to offer myself the distraction for a fresh perspective. I find tantrums are more likely to occur on days when I have a long to-do list with many distractions. I can’t fully eliminate the possibility that sometimes tantrums happen because of the expectations I place on my child, and often my busy days have higher expectations mixed with a dose of lower patience on my part. We’re all a work-in-progress. Coping, a lifelong struggle indeed.

Lynette Moran shares her life with her husband and two sons, ages 2 and 3 years. She has cloth diapered both since birth and enjoys all things eco-friendly and mindful living.

The Fourth Trimester: When Mastitis Strikes

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

When mastitis strikes

I encountered my first bout of mastitis when my fourth baby was
5 weeks old. I breastfed all four of my children over a total of six years, and I can summarize the experience in exactly one word: TERRIBLE!

I was in bed in near tears because my body was so sore and achy. I would alternate between having the chills and a very high fever causing me to sweat buckets. I felt absolutely miserable, but was also desperate to clear up the infection without the use of antibiotics.

What is Mastitis?

Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue. It generally starts as a plugged milk duct that becomes infected. The effected breast will be red, swollen, painful, and inflamed.

How is Mastitis Treated?

The very best form of treatment is a preventative approach. For example, avoid restrictive bras or clothing, empty your breasts completely at each feeding and/or pumping session, and nurse and/or pump on a frequent basis to avoid engorgement. Additionally, keeping stress levels low (yes easier said than done) is important, as stress can be a trigger for mastitis.

Even when all preventative measures are employed, mastitis can creep up on you rather quickly. A clogged duct can turn into mastitis within hours. At the very first sign you might be experiencing a clogged duct, make sure you pay attention to your body. Apply lots of massage and heat to the area and nurse, nurse, nurse.

When mastitis strikes, a common course of treatment is a round of antibiotics. While this can be effective, some moms may opt to treat mastitis without the use of antibiotics. I preferred to avoid the use of antibiotics and employed the following holistic treatment and comfort measures:

  • Rest – this is essential! Try to let go of everything else and focus on resting your body. This is definitely a time to call upon your support system for help. When I had mastitis, my mother-in-law happened to be visiting and my husband was home from work. This allowed me the ability to stay in bed for almost two days straight while my body healed. As mothers it can be difficult for us to let go of all the responsibilities nagging at us, but to the greatest extent possible allow yourself to rest so your body can heal.
  • Massage – Massage effected area frequently. You can massage with coconut oil or even a bit of arnica gel/cream (just be sure to wipe any residual amount away before baby nurses). As much as possible keep breasts moving; even jiggle them to help your milk flow.
  • Nurse – Continue to nurse your baby frequently and in varied positions. You can even massage the affected area while baby is nursing to try to release the clogged duct. Nurse! Nurse! Nurse! Babies are extremely effective in getting milk to flow so keep your baby close and nurse often.
  • Heat – Applying heat to affected area can help reduce inflammation and soften the tissue. You can take hot showers or use hot compresses before each nursing session.
  • Fever reducer – You may want to take something to reduce fever. This chart shows risk factors of medications while breastfeeding. Both Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen are considered safe while breastfeeding. Homeopathic options such as belladonna may be something you consider exploring as well.
  • Boost Immune System – Vitamin C is a highly effective immune system booster. Some health care providers recommend a therapeutic dosage of Vitamin C (3000-5000 mg/day) to combat mastitis. Echinacea, green tea, zinc, vitamin B, garlic, and ginger also help boost immunity. I drank several cups of this garlic ginger broth when I had mastitis.
  • Stay well hydrated – Drink lots of water, especially if you are sweating due to fever. Keep a water bottle next to you as a reminder to keep consuming water.
  • Castor Oil Packs – Another alternative treatment option is a caster oil pack. This article explains how to do a castor oil pack as well as the benefits of doing them.

While mastitis is very challenging to cope with and definitely feels like a huge bump in the breastfeeding journey, know that it generally only lasts about 24 to 48 hours. Often it is our body’s way of telling us to S-L-O-W down. So listen to your body. Pay attention to this its message. And above all take the very best care of yourself as possible. After all you are nourishing another little person with your wonderful milk.

Please note: As with any health issue or concern it is always best to contact your health care provider regarding course of treatment.

Sarah Johnson is a crunchy mama to four boys. Her family feels blessed to currently live abroad in the Netherlands and enjoy exploring all it has to offer. 

When Good Toddlers Go Bad

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

When Good Toddlers Go BadI’m kidding. All toddlers are good. But sometimes, even the Perfect Baby has an off day. I would know, because our third child is a Perfect Baby and right now she is upstairs throwing an Exorcist-worthy fit that made me start thinking about tantrums and what having three very different toddlers has taught me about them over the years.

Tantrums or meltdowns generally begin occurring around 18 months. Your toddler is gaining a sense of autonomy, and is haphazard about when to use it. They are also discovering language. On top of that, they are developing emotions and learning how to deal with them. Plus, babies in general are always running little experiments to test the world around them: What happens when I drop my cup from the stroller? Refuse to eat carrots? Say “no”? Take someone’s toy? Sometimes, all these discoveries collide, and they end up in a meltdown. Growth spurts, fatigue and overstimulation can also play a part.

During a meltdown, your toddler’s emotions get ahead of their ability to communicate or understand what’s happening, and they lose it. No amount of bribing or reasoning can get them out of it. You have to go back to square one—nonverbal communication.

Here are the tools we have used to get through the toddler years with our girls:

  • Hugging, swaying and shushing. Some of the 5 S’s still work at this age. I wouldn’t try to swaddle a toddler in mid-tantrum, but swaying and shushing while you hold them close can be reassuring and help bring them back to a state of calm. I tend to shush or say, “I’m here, It’s OK,” over and over. I personally don’t like it when people say, “Don’t cry!” or “Calm down,” to toddlers. When I’m upset the last thing I want is someone bossing me around, and babies absolutely understand everything you say.
  • Teething/Colic tabs. I love Hyland’s because they are homeopathic. Remember, toddlers are still getting molars, and they hurt the most before you can see them. I even used Hyland’s when my oldest was having night terrors and would wake up inconsolable. They helped her calm down enough so that she could talk to me and tell me what was wrong. If you don’t have any, just brew some chamomile tea and mix it with juice or milk.
  • Going outside/Going for a walk. It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, the fresh, outdoor air can calm a baby really fast. I never quit being amazed at how sometimes, the moment we stepped outside, the crying stopped.
  • Playing a favorite song. Each of my children had distinctly different songs that made them stop crying immediately. Right now, Clara is upstairs with Galactic’s “Hey Na Na” on repeat. Alice liked ‘90s alternative. Maisie would stop crying every time she heard “Clap Your Hands” by Britpop singer Sia. Whatever works.

It’s possible that if your toddler had colicky or fussy periods as a baby, you may experience a little flashback to that desperation and frustration you felt when your newborn baby cried for hours on end. Toddlers are stronger than babies and can accidentally hurt you during a tantrum, and it’s easy to feel like they did it on purpose, especially if it really hurt or if you feel like the whole day has been a struggle.

If you feel yourself getting angry or you stop feeling sorry for your crying baby, put her somewhere safe, like a crib or pack n play, and walk away for a few minutes to compose yourself. Ask your spouse to take over for a bit. Call a friend, neighbor, grandma, or resident baby whisperer for back up if you’re home alone. These feelings will subside, but they can be scary at the time.

The tantrum phase doesn’t last. Your toddler will learn to use words, deal with emotions, and transition from activities with ease, and you’ll feel like a capable parent again. For now, turn up the music, grab some wine and go to Reasons My Son is Crying for a cathartic laugh.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three who survived two toddler phases and is patiently waiting on her Purple Heart to arrive in the mail. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.

Enjoying a Trip to the Grocery Store with a Toddler

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Enjoying a Trip to the Grocery Store with a ToddlerThe baby is screaming, the toddler is running from one item to another leaving behind a path of littered goods, and you are just trying to bust through the aisles as fast as possible to make it out and have something to eat tonight. Does the situation sound familiar to you? Shopping with young children in tow can feel like running an Ironman, but with a little (or a lot) of preparation you can make it enjoyable for everyone (most of the time).

Here are five tips for surviving the grocery store with your toddler.

  1. Be Prepared. As much as possible, try to have a list of exactly what you need to pick up.  If you haven’t already, try meal planning on the weekend. Start off by planning 4 dinners a week, and it usually comes out perfect with a night or two of leftovers and one night out. You can adjust this to your own family patterns. One big grocery shopping trip is easier than lugging the kids into the store several times a week.  Also try some of the meal planning services that give you a menu and itemized grocery lists broken down by department.
  2. Timing Matters. Try not to wait until the end of the day to rush to the grocery store.  Everyone is tired and has little focus in the afternoon. Instead, try to do your grocery shopping first thing in the morning. Get up, have breakfast, and off to the store. Everyone is happier in the morning, including the store employees and customers. They will be more receptive and welcoming to your children and add a pleasant vibe to completing your trip.
  3. Involve your child. Make sure that even though you are getting your work done, you focus on your children. Involve them in the trip. The grocery store is full of great teaching opportunities and your child will soak it up. In the produce section, talk about names, colors and shapes of the things you buy. Have your child find items you know they can recognize.  Have them help you put food in the bag or in the cart. Pay attention to the signs and pictures around the store–talk to them about the sign or have them find it. Play I-Spy games describing what you see, and encouraging them when they can identify the item. If your child is getting antsy, pretend you just got on a train and make the cart stop/go at various “stations” where the train is loaded. Teach your child to say hello, thank you, and goodbye to the workers your encounter, take time to let your child talk to them if they wish.
  4. Know your store. Make sure you know your store. Know where the bathrooms are, know where the trashcans are, and know where free handouts (cookies in the bakery, rice cakes at the sushi stand) are. This is a huge help when a crisis strikes.
  5. Don’t be afraid to stand your ground or leave. Even the most planned mom cannot plan how her child will behave. If your child is having a particularly difficult time, they need to feel the strength and direction of their caretaker. Do not be afraid to tough out the last few minutes or to leave the store and come back later to finish some or all of your shopping.

Casey Mix-McNulty, RN, BSN is a full-time mom to an imaginative little boy and a feisty little girl. She is also a pediatric nurse aspiring towards becoming an IBCLC.