Category Archives: family

Kid and Car Saftey: A Reminder About the Dangers of Kids Playing (or Sleeping) in Cars

According to an article from last year’s Momlogic Newsletter, 23 U.S. children died by mid-summer, 2010,  in hot cars.  Many of them were incidents in which the parent/care taker forgot the child was in the car upon arriving at their destination…and the kiddo remained in the car for hours (or minutes) thereafter and perished in the heat of what can basically become an oven on wheels.

As mentioned in the Momlogic article, approximately 36 American children die every year in hot cars.  And according to a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, a car’s interior can heat up by 40 degrees within an hour–even if it’s a relatively cool day outside.  It all has to do with the size and shape of the car and whether or not the sun is out…plus the fact that the car’s windows act like a circumferential set of inward-facing magnifying glasses.

According to this article on the National Weather Service website, “Leaving the windows slightly open does not significantly decrease the heating rate. The effects can be more severe on children because their bodies warm at a faster rate than adults.”

***Follow any of the links above to learn more, especially additional hints about kids and car safety.

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Filed under family, From One Mother to Another, General Health, Kids, travelling with kids

Marching Forth: Africa’s Committment to Improve Safety of Moms and Babes

It’s always wonderful to come across stories like this, that highlight successes in the pursuit of improved maternal and infant outcomes revolving around pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.  Congratulations to Rwanda for making drastic changes and improvements, with the plan to meet the Millennium Development Goals of 2015 in regards to maternal and infant mortality.  For a highlight on improvements made toward maternal and fetal/infant/child health throughout many African countries, read this July 2010 article.

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Filed under breastfeeding, Childbirth Issues, family, From One Mother to Another, General Health, pregnancy, prenatal health

Google Doodle: The Wizard of Oz

As a little girl, I loved watching the Wizard of Oz once a year when it was re-broadcast in our viewing area.  I seem to think it was around Halloween when it would come on.

This morning, I was greeted by the following Google doodle:

Seeing this artistic rendition and having recently come across a watered-down version of the story to read to my kids (the flying monkeys and bad witches still have the potential to scare my kids at their ages) reminded me of the wonder of just how easily children can slip into imaginary lands, simply by way of suggestion.  The imagery and storyline offered in the Wizard of Oz provide an awesome springboard for kids to learn some pretty darned valuable lessons, all while experiencing otherwise logically implausible creatures, Technicolor backdrops and some good ol’ magic:  perseverance pays off; loyalty trumps almost all other things when it comes to friendship; courage, love and intelligence are all more related than we might sometimes tend to believe.

Thank you Google, for this lovely reminder of a 71-year-old American icon.  I can’t wait to watch the movie with my own kids, some day.

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Filed under family, friendship, holidays, Kids

Keeping Baby Close: The Importance of High-Touch Parenting

Today, at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, some intriguing (but not really startling) data will be presented at the annual Brain Development and Learning Conference: mothers who touch their babies more often can alter their offspring’s genetic expression and foster calmer babies who will grow up to be increasingly nurturing parents.  For those of us in the childbirth education arena, this is not surprising in the least.

For years, folks who promote safe, gentle birthing practices also tend to favor gentle parenting practices.  High-touch infant care falls under this category.  Famed pediatrician/author Dr. Sears calls it Attachment Parenting.  Others call it Kangaroo Mother Care (a philosophy which is often only thought of as being used with premies or newborns but can, in fact, be carried on throughout infancy).  Others, still:  Baby wearing.

The basic idea?  Keep your baby close by, offer skin-to-skin contact as a means of warming and/or comforting, bonding, teaching your child that you are there for her for the most basic of needs and that you are a tender, loving resource.

When our three kids were infants, we did the same thing I see thousands of other new parents doing:  we hauled our kids around in their detachable infant cars as if we were carrying around a utilitarian bucket of potatoes.  Because, let’s face it:  it’s easier, right?  No buckling and unbuckling the five-point harness every time we got in and out of the car.  No disturbing baby when he’s asleep in his bucket.

My friend who is an awesome mama, prenatal yoga instructor and doula, practiced baby wearing reverently with her two boys in their infancy.  As I observed her–always showing up with her little one snuggled into a wrap on her chest (or hip, as the baby grew) I pondered the realities:  doesn’t her back ever get sore?  Doesn’t she sometimes want her own space?

I imagine, the answer might have sometimes been ‘yes.’  But I also know that Gloria has a bond with her children like none other and was able to put aside the short term gains of her own comfort for the long term gains of what baby wearing likely fostered in the bond between mother and child.  And, I imagine, many “baby wearers” will tell you that they are comfortable wearing their babies–especially if fit with an appropriate sling/baby carrier.

Heres the thing:  with physical closeness comes psychological closeness, and you can bet those two boys of Gloria’s learned to trust their mama for their every need, early on.  Do kids who weren’t kept close as infants not trust their parents?  No, not necessarily.  But there are degrees of trust and psychological closeness and, where on that scale do you think a kiddo falls, who was kept close to his/her parents as an infant?  Just think of the inherent message baby wearing…attachment parenting…kangaroo care…sends:

“I am here for you.  Always.  Your well-being is so important to me that I will make sure I am close by to recognize when you need something.  You are not alone.”

I also ponder the messages being sent to a baby who spends a ton of her time in her infant car seat:

“My convenience is more important than your being comforted.  I hold you (literally) at arm’s length because it is easier for me.  I will take you with me according to my schedule (as opposed to being home for baby’s nap time–thus avoiding the concern about removing a sleeping baby from her car seat) rather than one that is more advantageous for you.”

I know I am simplifying things here.  But really, when you consider implied messages contained in our daily actions, the messages we send can be deafening, and are sometimes different from that which we’d really like to be relaying.

I recently learned about a new product hitting the markets…designed for a similar rural population as the one I wrote about, here.  In an earnest attempt to create a life-saving product for premature babies born in developing countries  a product has been developed called the Embrace–a sleeping bag-looking “portable incubator” with a pocket in the back for an inserted heat pack.

I applaud the Stanford researchers who’ve come up with this, and their aggressive goal of saving hundreds of thousands of teeny tiny lives at $25 a pop (this is an entrepreneurial effort).  But I also have to wonder, what about good-old skin-to-skin contact?  Studies have repeatedly shown that babies’ body temperatures (and heart rate, breathing rate and blood sugar levels) remain more stable when held skin-to-skin vs. when placed in an incubator.  Would the money otherwise spent in R&D, developing new and newer baby warming technology be better spent on community health education campaigns, instead?  What do you think?

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Filed under Childbirth Issues, family, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Mommy and Motherhood, pregnancy

In the News: Stories About Childbirth

We all know it:  the collective media including television, radio, newspapers (and, in my mind, the film industry, too) has enormous power.  Even if its various news companies have consolidated under a couple massive corporate umbrellas. So when I see articles or images about childbirth–newspaper blogs, print media or otherwise– I perk up right away, my interest tainted by an undercurrent of pessimism.  “How bad is it going to be, this time?”

Although I’d like to think that folks are becoming progressively savvy about the mass of information flooding their consciousness on a regular basis, I know there are still plenty of other people out there who accept “the news” as gospel truth.

Just think for a second on how childbirth tends to be represented in film and media.  What images come to mind?  Blue gown-draped women strapped into narrow hospital beds raised half way up to the ceiling so everyone in the room has a front row view of her intimate space…wide opened legs secured into stirrups…sweating, screaming and panicking as a ten-pounder comes barreling out the birth canal?  If we’re talking mainstream media and film, this is the type of image most typically portrayed.

Thankfully, there are more and more documentaries arising that demonstrate the softer side of birth–the emotionally empowering, life celebrating, ecstatic side of giving birth. Unfortunately, the mainstream media refuses to embrace this image of women during labor and delivery.

This morning, I came across a newspaper blog post in which the author, a mother of a three-year-old who is pregnant with her soon-to-arrive second child, comparatively discusses her emotions during her first baby’s birth, and the impending change in her family’s life as baby #2 arrives.  The title of her post: Childbirth Means Your Life’s Forever Changed.

A great title, really.

Suddenly optimistic, and hoping to read about how this woman might have been empowered during her first baby’s birth–how she scaled her own personal wall of difficulty, only to emerge on the other side stronger and more confident in her ability to handle the difficult challenges life will inevitably throw her way–how childbirth changed her for the better, having given her a glimpse into the true depths of her being… I read about a woman who approached her first birth encompassed by fear and hesitation.

In her own words, recalling her emotions prior to her first child’s birth, “The path is set and you have few options but to grin and bear it. Or in my case, hit the epidural early and hit it hard.”

Few options?  What a regretful mindset to be in.

When I read an article like this, my response is two-fold:  1) What a missed opportunity this person bypassed to learn the true depths of her strength as a woman, a mother, an individual.  2) How many women have read this same article and, once again, have had reiterated for them the unfair notion that childbirth is little more than a sentence to hours of optionless misery that you can do nothing other than “grin and bear it” through?

For women who are so frightened of birth, I wish them the time, courage and opportunity to watch films like this and this and this. And then, perhaps one or even a few of those women would be willing to go here for ongoing support in seeking/considering/planning for a gentle childbirth experience.

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Filed under Childbirth Issues, family, From One Mother to Another, Mommy and Motherhood, natural childbirth, pregnancy, prenatal health

Exploring Cultures: The Indian Caste System

Abandoning my original planned topic, I feel compelled to refer you to this blog post about the Indian caste system.

Why?  Because I find it fascinating.  And because I couldn’t imagine our children being born into a system in which they would have absolutely no chance to become anything other than the most lowly members of their culture.

Just last night, I prepared a huge Indian feast for our family and Kate, our visiting teenage neighbor/friend who will be here with us from Montana for the summer.  This was Kate’s first Indian meal.  Her first taste of curries and dal and khorma and spicy paratha.  I dressed myself in scarves, toe ring, anklets, etc. to “play the part” of an Indian hostess, and Ellie helped out by retrieving red stick-on dots for us to wear on our foreheads–the stickers we used to label prices on garage sale items last year.

I was careful to look up the “red dot” before dinner, so I could explain to the family about its purpose and intent.  We weren’t making fun.  I made that clear to our children.  We were learning about one of the many other cultures we’re gladly being exposed to since our move to the SF Bay area.  Call it a cultural immersion lesson.

This morning, while preparing to write a post, I found this article about the Indian caste system–a system of delineating citizens into predetermined groups, ranging from priests to “untouchables.”

The thing I don’t understand about the Indian caste system is the idea that a person is born into a certain caste because of the degree to which he or she obeyed the laws of the dharma (righteous living) in his/her previous life.  At the same time, caste membership (probably not the right word, here) is passed down from one generation to the next.  So, if I understand correctly, an Untouchable woman–Untouchable being the lowest segment of the population, so low in fact, that it isn’t actually even considered part of the caste system– could spend her entire life being as pious as the greatest of saints, and still her child would be born an Untouchable–worthy only of growing up to become an agricultural field worker,  a toilet cleaner or dead animal retriever.  Perhaps, however, her spirit would be reincarnated into a higher group.

I’m hoping someone who knows far more about this system than I, will happen upon this post and shed some light for us all.

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Filed under cultures, family, From One Mother to Another, Kids, Religion

Money for Maternal Child Health: The Gates Foundation’s Newest Project

I am assuming by now, you’ve heard about the announcement Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation made this week about the $1.5billion the Foundation is poised to spend over the next five years for the purpose of saving maternal and child lives surrounding childbirth, as well as improving over all maternity care, in developing nations.

Gates’ announcement was made at the Women Deliver 2010 conference this past Wednesday, and according to the Women Deliver website, on a global scale, “at least one woman dies every 90 seconds from [childbirth] and another 20 suffer infection or disability, while four million newborns die every year. These grim numbers actually represent improvements over the last 20 years….”

What’s important to understand here, is that a majority of these deaths (particularly in developing nation environments) are EASILY prevented–given access to basic medication (antibiotics), trained birth attendants (in most cases, we’re not talking about trained surgeons, we’re talking knowledgeable midwives) and simple postpartum hemorrhage tools and techniques.

Again, from the Women Deliver website:

  • Every year, between 350,000 – 500,000 girls and women die from pregnancy-related causes. Almost all of these deaths (99%) occur in the developing world.
  • Ten million women are lost in every generation.
  • Four million newborn babies die every year, also from causes that are mainly preventable and typically linked to the mother’s health.
  • Huge disparities exist between rich and poor countries, and between the rich and poor in all countries.
  • One in eight Afghan women will die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth, and one in seven in Niger.
  • One in 4,800 women will die of these causes in the United States, and one in 17,400 in Sweden.

Map of women who will die due to complications during  pregnancy

If that doesn’t give you pause, it darned-well should.  Imagine seven or eight of your girlfriends…your aunts/sisters/mothers…which one of those seven or eight can you imagine losing to pregnancy-related causes?  Despite efforts by people like famed midwife Ina May Gaskin who continues her work on the Safe Motherhood Quilt Project, many of us living in developed nation environments can scarcely imagine what it would be like to lose a loved-one during the perinatal time period.  And those of us who do know someone who died following a pregnancy-related complication, may have experienced that tragedy as an aberration rather than a commonality.  Imagine the anxiety surrounding that time in a woman’s life when the stakes are so much higher than which we here in the US, UK, Australia, or most of Europe will  ever experience.

(Interestingly enough, considering the amazing access to medicine and well-informed maternity care, US women are still at an unacceptably increased risk when it comes to pregnancy and birth, especially when you compare our statistics to places like The Netherlands where the maternal perinatal mortality rate is approx. 9/100,000 births compared to our ~16/100,000.  In our reality, the problem most often boils down to overuse of technology…but that’s a whole different story.)

I’m excited to see what improvements will be orchestrated through The Gates Foundation contribution, and the global work being undertaken by researchers, activists, care providers, educators and citizens who choose to exercise their voices…all for the sake of improved outcomes for mothers and babies!

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Filed under Childbirth Issues, family, From One Mother to Another, Mommy and Motherhood, natural childbirth, politics, pregnancy, prenatal health