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  1. Event

    Toddler Moms Night "Out" - Virtual Get Together

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    As part of our All About Baby's programming, we are excited to host a June Virtual Toddler Moms' Night "Out!" Toddler moms always need a break - here is your chance to gather and gab with moms who are as entertained and frazzled as you are with your little wonders. Grab your favorite beverage and join us Wednesday, June 9th at 8PM! NPN member and volunteer, Cathy, will lead a Zoom chat for moms with children between 18 months and 3 years to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as moms. This event is for NPN members only. Please register once. You will receive an email confirmation after you register with the Zoom link. For non-members, as part of our June All About Baby programming, you can join NPN for $30 using the promo code AllAboutBaby to receive a discount. Questions? Contact NPN Program Manager Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparent.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline at 1.888.431.2229, staffed by our warm and caring family/infant specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  2. Event

    Virtual 40+ Moms Group

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    Attention moms over 40 with children between 2 months and 3 years old - this is the group for you! Please join NPN member and volunteer, Cathy, who leads a Zoom chat for moms 40+ to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as moms. Please sign up for this group to attend one or all of these April meetups and drop in for as long as you can! This group will meet at 12:15 - 1:00 PM on Fridays. You will receive a Zoom upon RSVPing and the link again before the meeting. NPN members only. Please register once for you and your child(ren). You will receive an email confirmation after you register. Questions? Contact NPN Program Manager Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparent.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staff by our warm and caring family/infant specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  3. Event

    Virtual 40+ Moms Group

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    Attention moms over 40 with children between 2 months and 3 years old - this is the group for you! Please join NPN member and volunteer, Cathy, who leads a Zoom chat for moms 40+ to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as moms. Please sign up for this group to attend one or all of these April meetups and drop in for as long as you can! This group will meet at 12:15 - 1:00 PM on Fridays. You will receive a Zoom upon RSVPing and the link again before the meeting. NPN members only. Please register once for you and your child(ren). You will receive an email confirmation after you register. Questions? Contact NPN Program Manager Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparent.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staff by our warm and caring family/infant specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  4. until
    As part of NPN's All About Baby programming, Linda Szmulewitz of Sleep Tight Consultants will answer your questions about sleep! After this short presentation and live Q & A with Linda, new parents will walk away with: - Understanding the basics of sleep for babies age newborn to two years old - Best practices surrounding sleep for babies age newborn to two years old - Answers to your questions This will be a live Zoom session. Linda will give a short presentation in the beginning, saving the majority of time to answer your questions. We will send you the Zoom link the morning of Friday, June 11th. NPN members: Free. Login to register Non-members: $15 Are you attending more than one All About Baby program this month? If so, become a member of NPN for just $30 (that's $25 off!) using promo code AllAboutBaby and enjoy everything that NPN has to offer for a full year! Join here. Linda Szmulewitz is a licensed clinical social worker, a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach through Kim West, LCSW-C, aka The Sleep Lady ®, a DONA trained postpartum doula and the mother of two children. Her goal is to help improve the functioning of the family through improved sleep. She believes that by empowering parents with the tools necessary to help their children become excellent sleepers, it will help them parent more consciously and happily. She has been helping families with their children’s sleep for more than 10 years, worked with more then 1500 children across the United States and from more than 10 countries, and helped more than 3000 parents get back to sleep. Do you have questions about this event? Email amy@npnparents.org.
  5. Event

    New Moms Group for Ages 2-5 months

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    As part of our All About Baby's programming, we are excited to open our New Moms Group to both members and non-members throughout the month of June! These are for new moms with babies who are between 2-5 months (or about that age). NPN team member Meredith will coordinate a video chat for moms to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as new moms. This group will meet Wednesdays, June 2nd, 9th and 16th, 23rd and 30th and from 11AM - 11:45 AM via Zoom. For non-members, you can join any day that works for you for $15 per session! If you'd prefer to attend more than one time, please use the promo code AllAboutBaby to receive a discount and join NPN for $30 and attend as many as you can. If you are already a member, please login to RSVP for free. You will receive an email confirmation immediately after registering, including the Zoom details and then once ore before the group begins. If you have questions or would like more information about attending or hosting a New Moms Group, email Program Manager, Meredith Marzano, at mmarzano@npnparents.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staffed by our warm and caring family/infat specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  6. Event

    Estate Planning for New Parents

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    As part of NPN's All About Baby programming, join Estate Planning Attorney Jennifer Guimond-Quigley for a discussion on the nuts and bolts of estate planning for new parents. After the session, attendees will walk away with: - General knowledge on estate planning concepts - What parents of young children especially should be focused on, such as the benefits a trust, will, and powers of attorney provide - What to consider when designating guardians for minor children Additionally, Jennifer will discuss common pitfalls in naming children as direct beneficiaries of estates and transfer on death accounts and the best way to provide long term financial oversight for a minor child’s inheritance. This will be a live Zoom session with time for Q & A at the end. We will send you the Zoom link the morning of Friday, June 18th. NPN members: Free. Login to register Non-members: $15 Are you attending more than one All About Baby program this month? If so, become a member of NPN for just $30 (that's $25 off!) using promo code AllAboutBaby and enjoy everything that NPN has to offer for a full year! Join here. Jennifer Guimond-Quigley, Managing Attorney Jennifer is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Jennifer Guimond-Quigley, currently in its tenth year of operation. She realized early on in law school that she had a passion for both family law and estate planning. After gaining experience in these two areas both during and after law school through several small firm positions, Jennifer decided to start her own firm. With her solo practice, Jennifer loves having the freedom to collaborate with her clients to achieve the best results possible without the constraints common to practicing with larger firms. Jennifer has an extensive background in business and accounting, which has been invaluable in her legal practice. She spent years working as an accountant, and that experience has been imperative in counseling her clients about the financial and tax impact of their decisions and agreements. Jennifer’s comfort level with numbers allows her to easily explain their complexities in a relatable way to her clientele. Jennifer resides in Chicago with her husband and children. Do you have questions about this event? Email amy@npnparents.org
  7. Event

    Virtual 40+ Moms Group

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    Attention moms over 40 with children between 2 months and 3 years old - this is the group for you! Please join PN member and volunteer, Cathy, who leads a Zoom chat for moms 40+ to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as moms. Please sign up for this group to attend one or all of these April meetups and drop in for as long as you can! This group will meet at 12:15 - 1:00 PM on Fridays, April 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th. You will receive a Zoom link the day before the meeting. NPN members only. Please register once for you and your child(ren). You will receive an email confirmation after you register. Questions? Contact NPN Program Manager Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparent.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staff by our warm and caring family/infant specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  8. Event

    Virtual 40+ Moms Group

    until
    Attention moms over 40 with children between 2 months and 3 years old - this is the group for you! Please join PN member and volunteer, Cathy, who leads a Zoom chat for moms 40+ to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as moms. Please sign up for this group to attend one or all of these April meetups and drop in for as long as you can! This group will meet at 12:15 - 1:00 PM on Fridays, April 9th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th. You will receive a Zoom link the day before the meeting. NPN members only. Please register once for you and your child(ren). You will receive an email confirmation after you register. Questions? Contact NPN Program Manager Meredith Marzano at mmarzano@npnparent.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staff by our warm and caring family/infant specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  9. Event

    New Moms: NMG 2-5 months

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    Attention new moms with babies who are between 2-5 months (or about that age): This is the group for you! NPN team member Meredith will coordinate a video chat for moms to connect and talk about the unique challenges and joys you face as new moms. This group will meet Tuesdays, April 27th, May 4th and May 11th from 12pm - 12:45pm via Zoom. Please login to RSVP. You will receive an email one day before the group begins with instructions on how to sign in to the chat. Please register once for you and your infant. Log in to your NPN account to RSVP. You will receive an email confirmation immediately. If you have questions or would like more information about attending or hosting a New Moms Group, email Program Manager, Meredith Marzano, at mmarzano@npnparents.org. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Erikson Institute. NPN is proud to share information about Erikson Institute's Fussy Baby Network: The Fussy Baby Network offers a range of parent support services around crying, sleeping, and feeding issues for babies and toddlers up to age 3. We provide free phone support through our warmline, staffed by our warm and caring family/infat specialists. We also offer free virtual home visits to families no matter where they live. Finally, we provide support groups for parents to talk together about the challenges they face and how they cope. All of our services are available in English and Spanish.
  10. My long-term relationship that had been fizzling for quite a while had finally snuffed out when it occurred to me that I should become a single-mother-by choice. I was always able to picture myself as a mother but the image of myself as a wife was hazy. Very willing to have the baby and not the man, I started to strategize on how to make that happen. What is a single-mother-by-choice (SMC)? Sometimes called a choice mom or only parent, a single-mother-by-choice is a woman who decides to become a mother with full understanding that she will be the only parent. Or as the 2015 article, the single mother by choice myth defines it, “she’s the epitome of the modern independent woman who wants to have it all, career and family ─ taking her future into her hands, acting decisively, and doing what it takes to achieve her goal of motherhood, with no need for a man. A single-mother-by-choice will pursue motherhood with the aid of donor sperm from either a known donor, with a sperm bank, or private donation. I went with a sperm bank. How does it work? Initially, my plan was intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm is placed inside the uterus. Some women are brave enough to do it on their own at home. I wanted to go through a doctor. In doing so, I researched the best in the Chicagoland area and went with Chicago IVF. After sharing my medical history, I underwent a hysterosalpingogram, an X-ray of my uterus and fallopian tubes. I learned that in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the sperm and egg are fertilized outside of the body and then placed inside the uterus, was my only option. Due to the rigorous care schedule, I transferred my care to the Fertility Center of Illinois in River North because it was closer to home and work. Speaking of work, in Illinois, there is a state mandate that health insurance must cover fertility treatment, including up to four cycles of IVF. But how does it work as a parent? The African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, rings loud and true for an only parent. If not to help in childcare or to have someone in case of emergency, you will need a sane adult to let you know that you will survive. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the help of my parents—without them, working from home during the shelter-in-place would have been impossible. Any advice for someone considering SMC-hood? Working to get pregnant is well, work. Don’t be afraid to ask all of the questions. Choose a healthcare team that you’re comfortable with, especially if you’re a woman of color as racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths persist. Get a full physical workup before you start. Keep a journal because pregnancy comes with a lot of feelings and your journal can be your listening ear. Focus on what you have and not on what you’re missing. It took me two years to become pregnant. Out of those 730 days, Mother’s and Father’s Days were some of the roughest. The first year, I was starting IVF and had no clue if it would work. I skipped church and their Mother’s Day parade and focused all the energy I had after a good shower cry on my mom. That Father’s Day was rough because I was working to become an SMC and I was already rife with worry of how my baby-to-be would feel about the holiday seeing that she or he wouldn’t have a conventional dad. By the next year, I was an IVF pro, but I still needed a distraction. I spent that holiday season uplifting other moms-to-be and hosted a Twitter giveaway for a self-care kit. However, the nervousness around Father’s Day persisted. My mom was the first person I told my decision to become an SMC. “A baby needs a dad,” she said, and I agreed. But when I told her that I didn’t want to miss my chance to become a mother because I didn’t have a man, she quickly gave me her blessing. Yet, that didn’t stop me from praying that my love for my child would be enough. My third embryo transfer, in which my father drove me to the doctor, was a charm. That February, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Mother’s Day of that year was going to be great. My mom and I made plans to brunch with her best friend and her daughters, all of whom are mothers. I would finally get to celebrate with the cool kids. I even bought me and the baby boy matching shirts. But the Thursday before Mother’s Day, my father had a stroke. My mother spent the holiday in the hospital with my dad, while I celebrated my first Mother’s Day worrying and taking awkward selfies of me and my son. My dad’s recovery was slow but steady. He was still in the hospital for Father’s Day. Me, mom, and the baby sat around his bed and ate salads from Portillo’s. This year, while Mother’s and Father’s Day was off-kilter for the entire country, I’ve finally hit a stride and that blanket of burden is gone. My son is growing into his own person every single day and I’m confident in my ability to parent him, for now. This first year of parenting has already taught me that he will change and change. Even this Father’s Day felt better. My dad is doing as well as we could expect, and I’ve begun to practice my spiel on how I will tell my son know that he’s donor-conceived. I’ve even had the opportunity to connect with two handfuls of his donor siblings ─ giving him a peek (when he’s ready) into his other side, albeit extremely non-conventional. And maybe now I will channel all that Mother’s and Father’s Day tension into a holiday more deserving, like National Brownie Day.
  11. For those growing a family during the Covid-19 global pandemic, there may be additional concerns, worries or fears on your mind. While we continue to learn more about Covid, pregnancy has not been proven to be a contributing factor for increased vulnerability to the virus. However, prenatal care, labor and delivery, and post-birth care will look different from the pre-Covid era. Here's a guide on what to expect when you're expecting during this pandemic. Pregnancy Each health care provider—obstetrician, family physician or midwife—will always bring their own training, past experiences and approaches to prenatal care. During the pandemic, each practice will have its own policies and procedures around medical prenatal visits during Covid. Establish a partnership with your provider—ask them your questions about what to expect for your pregnancy care. In the Chicago area, most providers and practices have substituted some of the standard in-person appointments with telehealth visits. If you are experiencing a low-risk pregnancy, this should be just fine for you and your baby. If you or your baby have any high-risk factors or complications, your provider will be working with you directly to provide the most appropriate medical prenatal care. For an in-person visit, expect to be asked screening questions upon arrival and to have your temperature checked. If you are experiencing any symptoms, call your provider’s office before going in to see them. Until testing is more widely available, don’t expect to be tested during routine prenatal visits. One of the most significant changes in prenatal care is that your partner may not be able to join you at most or any of the routine visits, though they may be able to attend an ultrasound appointment. You can minimize potential disappointment by finding out in advance whether your partner can come in with you. If not, ask if you can have them on the phone or a web call during the appointment or if they can give you a recording of baby’s heartbeat to share. [Related: What to expect if you're expecting a Chicago baby] What if you test positive during pregnancy? Your provider is going to tell you what they recommend, based on what trimester you are in and what else may be going on with your pregnancy. As always, ask your questions so you understand the recommendations and what options you may have. Final weeks of pregnancy Talk about what options will or will not be available to you at the birth location. Have this conversation by the 36th week of pregnancy, because most babies, on their own, will arrive between 37–42 weeks. Do you have a strong preference for elements of your birth experience? Knowing what is possible may help you feel more prepared when your labor begins. In addition to your provider, you can check out Birth Guide Chicago’s COVID-19 page for updates on local hospital policies and support people. Having the support of a labor support doula—in-person or virtually—can also be an invaluable resource for navigating pregnancy and birth. Labor and delivery If you are planning to give birth at a hospital, here are some things to be prepared for: Most providers are recommending that you stay home for as long as you are able to manage the sensations of labor before you come to the hospital or birth location. Even if you are planning for or decide you want an epidural, the longer you stay at home the shorter your hospital stay will be. You will be given a Covid test in triage, in addition to the standard triage/admitting procedures. If you test negative, then things will likely proceed as they would in non-Covid times. If you are having a scheduled induction or Cesarean, you will likely take a Covid test a few days prior. There will be a limit of one to two people who can be with you. Some hospitals have limited it to one, others are allowing a partner and doula. Whomever your support person is, they will not be given a Covid test at the birth location. They should expect to be masked the entire time, and they will need to stay in the room with you. (Partners, pack extra snacks and clothes!) Each location has different policies on whether the mom-to-be will be required to wear a mask, regardless of the result of Covid test. Expect all hospital staff to be masked and gloved when interacting with you. What if you test positive for Covid when in labor? Expect to have additional measures put into place to keep staff safe while ensuring your safety and baby’s safety. You can talk with your provider in advance about the specific practices of your birth location. Because this is a new virus, there is still much we don’t know. The specifics of what your care will look like during labor, delivery and postpartum, as well as baby’s care, vary by birth location. But expect to be placed in a special room, to potentially have no partner/doula allowed in with you, and for all staff to be wearing PPE. [Related: Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders - The Most Common Complication of Pregnancy and Childbirth (members-only video)] Postpartum Visitors will likely be limited to the partner and possibly the doula. Friends, family members and older children will have to wait to see you and baby once you are home. Most hospitals are discharging new moms and babies after 24 hours for a vaginal birth and three days for Cesarean birth. Discharge remains dependent upon Mom being cleared by her provider and baby being cleared by the pediatrician to go home. Breastfeeding/chest-feeding is safe and recommended! When can friends and family visit? Pediatrician recommendations on who and when non-household members come into your circle vary, but generally the baby’s 2-month vaccination appointment can be considered a time marker. You will need to assess the risks and benefits for yourself and your family to determine when you are ready for visitors. There is no one set time that it will feel right for every new family. During pregnancy and the first year of parenting, the only constant is change. How we each respond to change is personal but doesn’t need to be isolating. There are many resources that are accessible during Covid: childbirth education and preparation classes have moved online, and so have many pregnant and new parent support groups (check out NPN's New Moms Groups). Therapy and other mental health services have been made easier to access through most insurance companies and with telehealth. Labor support and postpartum doulas, as well as lactation consultants (IBCLCs), continue to offer in-person and virtual care. Pregnancy and postpartum during Covid may be different but you can still find plenty of support. I hope your new baby brings you joy during this uncertain time!
  12. Pelvic floor strengthening is a great way for new moms to improve symptoms of urinary leaking or low back/pelvic pain. Plus, they can be done anywhere! Before you jump right into exercises, let’s learn a little about the pelvic floor. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles that span your pelvis and act to support your organs, maintain normal bowel and bladder function (going when you want to—not leaking when you don’t want to!), and sexual function. First, it is important to perform a pelvic floor contraction correctly. When contracting your pelvic floor, you should feel the muscles close in and up, like an elevator rising towards your ribcage. In order to feel if you are doing the exercise correctly, you can feel just inside your sits bone and gently feel the muscles pull in and away from your fingers as you contract, you should not feel muscles bulging out. [Related: Breastfeeding inequality: It's time to end the mommy wars] Kegels (pelvic floor isometric contraction) Kegels should be performed with “quick flicks” and long holds. The quick flicks should be a complete contraction and complete relaxation of the muscles quickly 10 times. The long holds should be about 3-5 seconds long with an equal duration of rest in between for 10 repetitions. Both “quick flicks” and long holds should be performed 2-3 sets per day. You can do this sitting, standing, or laying down. Abdominal bracing We are adding the contraction of your transverse abdominis, an abdominal muscle that acts like a corset to the contraction of your pelvic floor. Start with a pelvic floor contraction (kegel) and then engage your abdomen by bringing your belly button straight into your spine. You should feel the contraction of the correct abdominal muscle (your transverse abdominis) by placing your fingers gently halfway between your belly button and the bony part of your pelvis. Hold the contraction for 3-5 seconds with equal rest in between repetitions for 10 repetitions. Most important is to make sure you maintain normal breathing and do not hold your breath. You can do this sitting, standing, or laying down, 2-3 sets per day. [Related: Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression] Hip bridge with adduction For this exercise, you will need a pillow, ball, or rolled-up towel. Start laying on your back with your knees bent and the object squeezed between your knees. Maintaining pressure on the object, lift your hips up squeezing your butt at the top. Pause for 5 seconds with your hips lifted, then slowly lower down and repeat. Performed 10 times, 2-3 sets per day. Squats Start standing and engage your pelvic floor engaged, up and in Maintain the pelvic floor contraction as you squat, pause at the bottom, and return to standing To squat with correct form, it should feel like you are sitting your butt back on a chair and maintaining your knees directly over your toes. Performed 10 times, 2-3 sets per day.
  13. Becoming a parent is a joyful, exciting time. It is also a stressful, disorienting and exhausting time. There is cultural messaging that children are a joy and we should be happy throughout their babyhood. However, as a clinical psychologist and mother, I've seen that this is just not reality, and this message creates shame for mothers and partners who struggle with this major life transition. In fact, did you know that, statistically, couples report the lowest rates of marital satisfaction after the birth of a baby? These tiny humans have a way of taking up a huge amount of emotional space, time and energy. Much of this time, energy and attention you once had to give to your partner or yourself, so of course the transition will be a little bumpy! While you can find thousands of resources about the best car seat or swaddle, it’s rare to find information about what to do to prepare and protect one of the most important things to you and your baby: your marriage or partnership. So here are a few ways to help baby-proof your relationship and prepare your partnership for the transition to parenthood. Establish good communication strategies It is vital to the long-term health of a partnership, particularly during times of stress, to learn how to ask for help and how to constructively express frustration or disappointment. No matter how close we are to someone, they can’t read our mind! It’s also important to reduce criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling (shutting your partner out), as these types of communication patterns have been identified as particularly damaging to a relationship. Discuss expectations Who will do the late-night feedings? Who is in charge of childcare? You may think you’re both on the same page, but sitting down to let your partner know your expectations, and to hear theirs, is essential. Prioritize connection Parenting a newborn is all-encompassing. Connecting with your partner may not look like weekends away or long nights out for a while, but you can still make each other coffee, reach for their hand, or turn your phones and tv off to talk for a few minutes at night. These small moments of connection can make a huge difference. Work on your mindset Don’t keep score! When you aim to win an argument or you keep track of exact numbers of times you do something, even if you win, the relationship loses. See yourself as a team, you both have the same goal to care for this baby. Also remember that this is a temporary phase of life. When we have thoughts like, My life will always be this way, it can make our negative emotions more intense. Take care of yourself You can’t be a good partner if you’re totally depleted. Stay connected to friends, go for walks and lean on your support system. Postpartum anxiety or depression can compound the difficulty of adjusting to parenthood and to your relationship and absolutely necessitates treatment. If you or someone you love is experiencing difficulty, please reach out to me or to another mental health professional.
  14. Are you or someone you love struggling with feelings of anxiety, extreme sadness or feeling very overwhelmed following childbirth? Nancy Segall of Beyond the Baby Blues and Claire Zawa of Birthways Inc. share information and resources for expectant and new parents about the causes, symptoms and treatments for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression occurs in approximately 20 percent of all new mothers. It’s considered the number one postpartum childbirth complication. After this webinar, you will have a better understanding of how perinatal mental health extends beyond depression, impacts the entire family, and can be identified before the family is in crisis. Topics covered: Perinatal mental health diagnoses and presentations Risks factors, special populations, and situations that require referral Tips for how to engage a new or expecting parent in a dialogue about perinatal mental health and how to best offer support Cultural considerations Assessment/screening Resources
  15. Too much bandwidth is being taken up by the so called "mommy wars." In this debate, opposing tribes of (typically well-off, middle-class) moms berate each while wielding their totemic claims: “Breast is best” vs “Back off and butt out, it’s every moms right to choose what’s best for her and her baby.” Now, I’ll be honest. Until recently, I used to be one of these moms. I had breastfed two children and so it was obvious: my team was Breast is Best. In fact, being a blogger, I even posted a few rants in which I condemned moms who chose to bottle-feed. [Related: The best-kept secret about breastfeeding] But here’s the thing: While this conversation does cover some important issues, nevertheless, it is a distraction. The really important issue, the one which deserves to take up mom-blogger bandwidth, is breastfeeding inequality. Are you aware that in the poor state of Louisiana (US) only 56% of mothers ever breastfeed, but in the relatively wealthy state of California, 93% do? Did you know that only 38% of mothers living below the poverty threshold breastfeed at 6-months, while 68% of mothers in top-earning families do? And finally, did you realize that only 29% of mothers who never marry breastfeed their babies until 6-months, whereas 60% of married women do? Shocking, isn’t it? I learned about breastfeeding inequality this year. I was preparing to write another generic mommy wars-style article attacking bottle-feeding. Being a bit of a research nerd, I began digging into the national statistics on breastfeeding. What I learned shattered my preconceptions about breastfeeding. The disparities are huge. In the US, there are almost 4 million mothers with a baby less than 12 months old. When you run the percentages against that figure you are looking at tens (even hundreds) of thousands of mothers who are not breastfeeding because they grew up in the ‘wrong’ area code. [Related: 5 things you should know about breastfeeding before giving birth] Highlighting this isn't about shaming mothers — precisely the opposite. It's about looking hard at the socioeconomic factors causing the problems. It’s about dropping the notion that all moms have the same breastfeeding opportunities and choices. They don’t. It was this realization that caused me to ditch my breastfeeding tribalism. The mommy wars miss the point, and, in doing so, they get in the way of real progressive health improvements for moms and babies. Here are just a few reasons that less well-off mothers find it more difficult to reach optimal breastfeeding goals: • Less access to paid maternity leave • Lower paid jobs that are less likely to allow for pumping breaks • Inadequate maternity and lactation support in hospital • Less effective family and community support • A culture that doesn't unconsciously treat breastfeeding as a desirable status symbol Tackling these issues will be no small feat. But mothers, let’s come together around a goal that we can all agree on: that all moms from all walks of life should have equal knowledge, opportunity, and support to breastfeed (if they want to). Mamas, let’s do this!
  16. Beth is a new mom, and she is exhausted. She hasn’t showered in several days. And even though it's well into the morning, Beth hasn’t brushed her teeth yet. Between breastfeeding on a tight schedule — as prescribed by her pediatrician — and worrying about her daughter gaining weight, Beth has had no time for herself. But today, her daughter is one-month old! Beth picks out the perfect outfit for her baby. She stages the perfect setting and carefully places her daughter in front of the one-month old sign. She takes several photos and chooses her favorite. She then clicks "post" and waits for her social media community to like and comment. [Related: 9 social media rules for first-time parents] As the likes and comments stream in, Beth feels a sense of validation. Maybe she's doing this motherhood thing right after all. At least her friends seem to think so by their adoring comments. But just as quickly as the validation comes, it also goes away, and panic and insecurity set in. Why hasn’t her sister-in-law liked her photo yet? Beth knows she is always on Instagram at this time. Does she think Beth is a bad mother? Does she not like the outfit that Beth picked for her daughter? Should Beth have used one of her sister-in-law’s hand-me-downs? Did Beth’s husband share that Beth is really having a difficult time? Beth is not alone in her social media “insta-curity.” A growing number of Facebook and Instagram users are mothers. Forty percent of millennial moms have an Instagram account dedicated just for their baby. One study, looking at new parents’ social media use, found that mothers sought external validation through social media posts, comments and likes of their child. This type of social media activity was linked to elevated parenting stress and depressive symptoms for new mothers. A related study, examining the connection between social media comparisons and mothers’ parenting behaviors and mental health, found that mothers who frequently compared themselves to others on social media sites felt more depressed, overwhelmed and less competent as parents. An estimated 15-20% of new mothers report experiencing mental health issues during the perinatal and postpartum period. What role does social media play in undermining the confidence and capability of a new parent? Does social media perpetuate perinatal mental health problems, or is it merely a sly accomplice? [Related: How unplugging made me happier parent] People on social media tend to portray themselves in a highly positive manner. This can be especially true for mothers who feel pressure to be perfect. For those mothers who are struggling, comparing themselves to the picture-perfect idyllic image of motherhood inevitably makes them feel like they’re falling short. There are other ways to participate in social media that allow moms to cut themselves some slack. Not every mom on Instagram is perfect. There is a new breed of social media moms that are fighting against the “perfect mother” and instead portraying a more authentic (and messy) version of motherhood — unwashed hair and throw-up stains included. This mom isn’t afraid to admit when she is tired or having a bad day, or that she does not have it all figured out. Additionally, many new parents identify social media as a way to maintain relationships with family and friends and also create a new community, where they connect with other mothers virtually. These connections should help them share support and normalize their personal experience—not make them feel inadequate. Internet aside, you can always connect with other new parents in person. Find parenting playgroups, music classes or mom-and-baby exercise classes. Try to expand your community outside of social media and the Internet. Remember, some days are harder and no amount of “likes” or “comments” is going to change that. But you’re doing great.
  17. Jill* came to see me for therapy at the end of her maternity leave. She had never experienced anxiety before and was suddenly suffering from shortness of breath, racing heart, difficulty breathing and intense feelings of guilt in anticipation of returning to work and leaving her newborn son. While the experiences, conditions and circumstances of working vary, many women, like Jill, experience guilt—feeling they are causing harm or doing something wrong. Mothers often strive to meet unrealistic expectations of parenting. When they don’t reach these unattainable goals, intense feelings of guilt arise. Here are some of the most common reasons mothers feel guilty, specifically when returning to work, followed by tips on how to overcome these feelings. Guilt #1: Leaving my baby with someone else “What’s the point of having a baby if I am going to leave him every day?” Jill asked. Often working mothers feel guilty leaving their babies in the care of others. However, most children under the age of 5 years old receive childcare from someone other than a parent, whether through day care centers, nurseries or with nannies. Infants and children do well with a loving caregiver, whether a parent or another provider. In fact, your child may actually benefit from a healthy and loving relationship with another adult. Furthermore, research suggests that using childcare can have social, psychological and financial benefits for both children and parents. Guilt #2: I’m not good enough Many mothers strive for perfection, which sets them up to feel disappointed, frustrated and ashamed. Rebecca* was looking forward to returning to work after being on maternity leave with her newborn son and toddler but soon discovered that she was not the same employee as before. It was no longer realistic for her to be the first one in the office and the last to leave. Whether you are elated or anxious to be back at work, it is important to be realistic and patient with yourself. You are not the same person as you were before you left, and that is okay. Additionally, you are returning to work with new skills gained in motherhood, such as multitasking, delegation, time-management, saying “no” and fully committing when you say “yes.” Guilt #3: Failing at work-life balance When you think of work-life balance you probably think of equality in both work and life. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Instead, think about work-life balance in more flexible and realistic terms—sometimes work triumphs over life and other times life wins over work. When you are at work, try to be 100% focused. When you’re home, try to be 100% present—don’t check work emails or take work calls. If the work-life wins and losses feel about even, then you have achieved work-life balance. Keep in mind that working is not the same as self-care. You still need time for yourself, whether taking a workout class, grabbing dinner with friends or squeezing in a manicure. Try these tips when returning to work: Choose all of your outfits for the week before returning, ensuring the clothing fits your body now. If you are breastfeeding, practice pumping at home. Find out the best place to pump at work and pack all of your supplies the night before. When coworkers ask how you are doing, have one short and positive line ready, such as “It’s good to be back.” Take breaks and call your partner or supportive person to hear a friendly voice Place a photo of your baby on your desk. Ask your caregiver to occasionally send photos, but try not to FaceTime. Learn to say “no” and not over-commit. Spend quality time with your baby when you return home—the laundry and dishes can wait. Take time for yourself. Find your own version of balance. * Names and identifying information have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
  18. Last March I attended (not by choice) the Expectant Fathers class at Prentice Hospital. During these 2 ½ hours, 15–20 fathers-to-be sat around two long tables and listened as the presenter, a pediatrician and father of two, delivered the non-edited version of how life was about to change. It was funny at times. Scary at others. Eye-opening for sure. During one part of the session, we were presented with this question: “What are you most afraid of about becoming a father?” I could have scripted some of the responses: “I don’t know if I’m going to have enough money to support a child.” “I’m worried I won’t see my friends as much.” “I’ve never changed a diaper.” “I’m scared I won’t get enough sleep.” But then one of the soon-to-be dads across the table offered this: “I’m afraid I won’t be able to go to the gym as much.” I can’t remember if anyone laughed out loud, but I know I chuckled to myself. With all the other significant life changes that were about to smack each one of us in the face, pumping iron and getting a good sweat were at the top of his mind? Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of being active—I was once a personal trainer and I’ve spent thousands of hours in gyms over the last 20 years—but I thought that I’d be just fine if my activity level dipped a little bit once baby arrived. Yet now a little more than a year into fatherhood, and understanding how woefully unprepared I am for my first marathon six months from now, I realize how wrong I was. Even if you don't have the time to get to the gym or go for a run as often as you'd like, it's crucial to stay moving and take care of your physical health as this can improve your mood, your quality of sleep, your energy level, and your ability to keep up with your increasingly mobile little one(s). For you parents who have lost some/most/all the “me-time” you once enjoyed, here are some ways to stay active (or get moving again), while keeping the kids involved: Park the stroller. Carrying your child obviously won’t work in all situations (your child doesn’t want to be picked up, you can no longer lift your child, you can lift your child but you’re just too damn tired and need a break). But if you want to give your arms, legs and back a nice workout, try leaving the stroller in the closet or trunk of your car when you’re out and about. Sign up for a class that gets you and your child moving. Try parent-child swimming, mommy/baby yoga, stroller fitness programs, etc. Enjoy the physical benefits and the bonding experience. Look for stroller-friendly races. These races can be difficult to find–and tough on kids if they’re strapped in for too long or if it’s not an ideal temperature—but they’re out there if you look. My wife and I saw a handful of children getting pushed in strollers when we completed the United Run for the Zoo 10K at Lincoln Park Zoo earlier this month. Turn off the TV. When your child isn’t planted in front of the television, he or she likely will be moving around. That means you probably will be, too. Go to the playground. The Chicago Park District lists 518 facilities around the city, so there is no shortage of playground options where you can push your child in a swing (work those arms, shoulders and back), play tag with your little one (there’s your cardio) and climb the steps (leg day) to the top of the slide. Find gyms with childcare services. As fun as it can be to connect with your little one while getting some exercise, sometimes you just need an hour alone at the gym without being attached to a stroller or baby carrier. In those cases, if you can’t line up a babysitter, there are gyms around the city with onsite childcare services. This will allow your little one to play in a supervised environment while you get in a much-needed workout. Do your research first to learn about these locations’ hours of operation and fees. You also want to find out the staff’s qualifications and how they deal with dirty diapers and toddler meltdowns.
  19. Most expectant parents understand that after their baby is born, she will cry. A lot. But how do you cope with the stress of hearing your baby cry, and how will you know whether your baby's crying is normal? Nancy Mork, LCSW, of the Erikson Institue's Fussy Baby Network, offers some great insight on infant crying below. How do you know if your child has colic, rather than a normal baby who cries a lot? All babies cry, but some certainly cry more than others! The definition of colic is the Rule of 3’s: more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days in a week, for at least 3 weeks. Babies with colic typically will be inconsolable in the evening and have a higher pitched cry—it often sounds like a pain cry. You might notice that they turn purple when they cry. Although holding more can help, it often does not stop the crying. Is there a difference in the cries babies make depending on their needs? Yes and no! It really depends on the age of your baby. You really can’t distinguish the cry in a newborn—with sound alone. Looking at your baby usually helps parents to be able to distinguish the cries. Context also helps, if you know that it is almost time to eat, that helps! The one cry that you can distinguish is pain: It is higher pitched, loud, with sudden onset. What are some coping mechanisms for parents who are on their last nerve with their crying infant? Crying is probably one of the most gut-wrenching parts of parenting. Most parents find the crying to be stressful and frustrating. It is important to know that it is always ok to put your baby down, in a safe place, no matter what. Taking care of yourself is key. Get support from family, friends or even Fussy Baby Network. If it is the middle of the night, it is good to know that there is a hotline available for you to call, 1-866-364-6667, which has trained counselors ready to listen and offer support. You are not alone in these feelings and no one should parent alone. Taking a break is also really important. It doesn’t have to be long, but having someone you trust watch your baby for even just 30 minutes is crucial. Remembering to breathe—taking three conscious breaths—can also help. What expectations should expectant parents have about how much their infant will cry? Believe it or not, it is totally normal for infants to cry up to three hours a day! That’s a lot of crying. It helps to know that all babies go through a normal crying curve. Babies actually cry more at around 5-6 weeks than they did the first few weeks. Although all babies are different, at around 12 weeks babies are crying much less.
  20. While many NICU stays come as a surprise, sometimes parents are told to anticipate their child needing specialized care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in advance. Leaving the hospital without your baby is never easy, whether you had the opportunity to emotionally prepare for it or not. For parents anticipating this very stressful and challenging time, l have compiled a list of resources to reduce stress, increase bonding and make the process as smooth on the family as possible. This list of resources and advice comes my experience as a NICU mom and from a fantastic group of attachment and trauma therapists I have the privilege of working with. Connect with other NICU moms right away—they will be a great source of support and advice during your journey. Search Facebook for groups and connect with local moms through parent groups like NPN. Visit Centering.org for resources. There's a section specifically for NICU babies. You'll be able to find some children's books and maybe even a coloring book or activity book to flip through with older children. Have a friend or family member bring you a clean washcloth or tiny baby blanket, or even two small matching ones. Sleep with them for a night or two and then give one to any children who will remain home while mom is in the hospital. It'll be a nice way for them to feel connected to you while you're not with them. Then, when your baby is born, ask the staff to put one in your baby's isolette. Depending on the hospital's infection-control policy, they may take it out after surgery, but they can put back in later. Sing to your baby. There has been some research into the effectiveness of singing to your baby in the absence of being able to touch them. You don’t have to have a wonderful singing voice or even know all the right lyrics, words are not as important as the tempo. Consider buying a small voice recorder to allow your baby to hear your voice even when you are not physically present. Create a narrative. I started putting together a Shutterfly book in the NICU to describe our experience. Also talk out loud with your newborn about her birth experience, the fearful transition away from you, the confusion of the new location and, most important, your joy of meeting face to face for the first time. That story is so important and healing, for both of you. Start conversations with your not-yet-born infant. If you find out while pregnant that your baby will spend time in the NICU, explain to him all that is about to happen, make guesses about how these things might feel to him (for example, that he might worry the grownups aren’t ready for him, or that he might worry they are trying to get him out before he’s ready). You don't have to get the words perfect, but you do need to occupy some of your energies with mentalizing this unborn child while communicating your assurance that you will be there when he comes out (even though you worry—and he knows it—that you won’t). You need to tell him all about the c-section, about who will be taking care of him, and how you will hold him in your heart when you can’t be right next to him. You do have the power to communicate with him, and to hear his “voice” back. Put some family pictures by your baby's bedside or even tape them onto the sides of the isolette. It will get the NICU staff talking about you to your baby when you're not there. Use kangaroo care as much as you can. Healing Touch is incorporated in the US and, given the research supporting it, most or even all NICUs are doing this. Healing Touch is the only accredited energy medicine, and most of the research has been gathered in hospital settings. It's usually just reserved for Mom and Dad. Find out the visitation rules for the NICU before your baby is born. Are there visiting hours? Can your other children come, too? What about extended family and friends? Get as much info as you can now so you feel prepared later. Figure out the parking situation. If you're going to a city hospital, parking may be expensive or complicated. Look into it. If family or friends are offering to help and you don't know what to say, ask for a ride to the hospital for visits. Or, often friends chip in for a "parking fund." Pump if you can. Your milk supply may increase if you pump while looking at a photo of your new baby and if you have your baby's scent nearby. So, actually, get a third clean washcloth for the staff to put in your baby's isolette for a day or two and then give to YOU to hold onto. Repeat as necessary. Also, drinking lots of water and/or Mother's Milk tea can help increse supply. Check with your health insurance company to find out whether it will cover the cost of a hospital grade double electric breast pump—it's the most effective and most efficient pump out there. Since it's medically necessary for you to pump, insurance will likely cover it. Don't forget about Dad. He is going to be very worried, and deeply frustrated by the limits on his ability to assure safe passage for the new, sick baby. It will be very important, later, that history shows (to himself, and to Mom) that he stood strong, and that he protected his children and his partner. Trust the staff. See if the NICU will assign a primary nurse to your baby so there will be as much consistency as possible in his/her care. Also, remember that the nurses and docs will lovingly care for your baby. Even when you're not there, they will tend to her cries and use beamy pillows and other tools to help your baby feel the sensation of being held, even if baby isn't stable enough to be moved around and cradled in their arms. Take it from me, it will be hard and it will be scary, but you will get through it. The NICU is a beautiful and terrifying place.
  21. Lifestyle blog Fix put together this helpful infographic about recognizing and treating postpartum depression, a topic you just can't know enough about. Postpartum depression can happen to any new mom, and the effects go beyond the "baby blues." And too few people talk about it, despite the efforts of celebrities such as Hayden Panettiere, Brooke Shields and Drew Barrymore to shed light on the pervasive condition. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in yourself and others, and share this with a friend! Source: Fix.com Blog

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