Will I Ever Move Beyond Car Seats?

img_1410Perhaps or perhaps not. I have talked about car seats and injury prevention so much even I’m ready for a new topic of study and conversation. Yet at the end of the day, I am still passionate about saving the lives of children and protecting them from injury. I know I said “Beyond… Carseats” but I feel I have to post at least one blog on car seats because I see so much car seat misuse all around and children not adequately secured in vehicles that it grieves my heart no matter how much I have said it before. I have seen the repercussions and consequences of a child not adequately secured in a crash and it is tragic and heart-breaking. I am not sure why some caretakers are not attentive and accountable to follow current expert guidelines that could save the life of the child they are entrusted with. Why is protecting the life of a precious child not motivation enough to do what is right? Why do some believe tragedy could never happen to them? Why do some believe they know better than expert advice on what is safest?  I am not sure why I see people in such a rush to move their child to the next stage when children already grow up fast enough. Or why do people seek advice from persons whom are not experts in this area at all? Sometimes even healthcare providers are not updated on child passenger safety recommendations and parents are given misleading and conflicting information (thankfully, this is improving). So I will briefly describe the current recommendations and I will provide references and resources that are from reputable and reliable expert sources. I post this because I care and if even one child is better protected from injury, then it is worth the time I took to type this. The information is out there already, but I hope this reaches at least one whom will really take the time to think about the potential consequences of not adequately securing their child. Here are two expert references: http://www.safercar.gov/parents/CarSeats/Right-Car-Seat-Age-Size.htm?view=full; and  https://www.safekids.org/ultimate-car-seat-guide/).

10 Safety Reminders to Help Keep Your Kids Riding Safe in Your Car

Remember Motor Vehicle Crashes are the #1 Cause of Death to children! Let that sink in. Now put away all distractions and fasten your little loves correctly before driving anywhere.

  1. Car Seats are for traveling in the vehicle. That sounds like a no-brainer, but infant car seats are commonly used throughout the day for infants even when the infant is not traveling in the vehicle and this can be dangerous. Car Seats are not for the infant to sleep in outside of the vehicle. In the vehicle, rear facing seats should be at the recommended angle. Promptly remove the infant from the car seat when not traveling in the vehicle. Outside of the vehicle, the seat is not at the recommended angle and an infant’s head can lurch forward and impair the baby’s breathing. Also, make sure all the straps are buckled when the infant is in the car seat. Infants can sink down in the car seat and if the crotch strap is not buckled, the baby’s breathing can be impaired if they sink down and get their head caught on the chest clip. This has happened. Infants have died as a result of being left in the car seat and their head/neck getting into a position in which the infant was unable to breathe.
  2. Keep your child’s car seat rear-facing as long as possible at least until age 2. Studies have shown in a crash, the head and neck are better protected when a child is riding in a rear-facing car seat than if it were forward facing. This is a video clip that demonstrates this in a simulated crash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuZFVPv3Rpk . Babies and toddlers’ feet may touch the back of the vehicle seat and this is okay. Developmentally, babies/toddlers tend to sit with their legs bent/crossed anyway. After your child outgrows their infant car seat, get a convertible car seat and keep your child rear-facing until your child reaches the upper rear -facing weight or height level for their car seat. Then, you can turn it around and use it forward facing.
  3. Keep the CHEST CLIP clipped at the chest/armpit level, not the belly! This will not only be huge in helping to protect your child during a crash, but also will help those busy toddlers from escaping their car seats.
  4. Tighten up! Keep those harness straps tight enough so that you cannot pinch the straps . Are you concerned about the straps causing marks are the neck? It is not recommended to purchase anything that did not come with the car seat as the seat was not tested under these conditions. However, you can pull over your child’s shirt so the strap is not directly against the neck. A loose harness will allow too much movement of the child and they could be possibly being thrown from the seat during a crash.  Did not put heavy snowsuits on your child prior to placing them in the car seat. Layer your child, place them in the seat, tighten up the straps, and then you can put a blanket/coat over them and tuck it in around them. My kids wore their coats backwards when riding in their car seats. For infants, you can also get one of the covers that goes over the car seat to keep your baby warm. However, It is not advised that anything go between the baby and the car seat as this can affect the tightness of the straps and the infant to not be adequately restrained.
  5. Secure your child’s car seat with either the vehicle seatbelt or lower anchors. Either one is equally as safe. Get a tight fit so that the car seat does not move more that an 1 inch either way at the belt path. Most cars now have the switchable locking belt, meaning that you have to pull the belt completely out and then slowly feed the belt back and it locks. If you have this type of seatbelt, you won’t have to use a locking clip (which comes with all car seats) because your seatbelt locks the car seat in place. If this does not make sense (and I too have to learn by doing), go find a certified passenger safety technician to help you learn how to install your child’s car seat. Also, most car seat manufacturers have installation videos available online on how to install their car seats. This can be very helpful. I highly encourage you to learn how to install your child’s car seat from a certified passenger safety specialist. It is worth it. You can start by checking out this link or calling your local fire department or health department to ask if they have certified passenger safety technicians and offer free car seat checks (http://www.safekids.org/events).
  6. Children should ride in a 5 point harnessed car seat as long as possible until they outgrow their car seat’s limits. It is not a right of passage to move your child to a belt positioning booster at 4 years age; please don’t. This can be very dangerous as most 4 year olds are still small, very active and do not sit still. Children who are too small can slide under the seat belt in a crash and may not be restrained by the shoulder belt especially if they are too small, too wiggly and cannot stay correctly positioned.  In my experience, most 4 year olds and young children are too small and are not able to sit correctly in a booster until they are at least older than age 5. After children reach 4 years and 40 lbs, it is safest to keep your child in a harnessed car seat as long as possible (check your car seat weight and height limits for the harness). Most 4 year-olds are too small and not developmentally ready to sit still in a booster seat and easily can move out of position of being adequately restrained. I know I am repeating myself, but too often I seen kids advancing too soon and it warrants repeating. It is safest to keep these little loves in a harnessed car seat longer and not consider moving the child to a booster until they outgrow the limits of their car seat.  Many manufacturers are now making higher weight and bigger harnessed car seats so it can be used by the child longer. After a child has outgrown the forward facing car seat limits, they should then move to a booster seat.
  7. At the bare minimum, a child should be in a booster seat (high-back even better) until they reach at least 4 foot 9 inches or until they can sit properly in the vehicle’s seat with their back against the seat, knees bent/feet on floor and the seatbelt fits proper across the hips (not abdomen as it can cause internal injuries in a crash) and the mid-chest and shoulder (not the neck). Most children are beyond 8 years old and at least in the 4th and 5th grade when they are tall enough to safely sit without a booster in a car. This means most, if not all, of elementary school a child should be riding in a booster seat and for some children even longer. 4 foot 9 inches is 57 inches. Even at that height, it is best to make sure the vehicle seat belt is fitting correctly as in some cars it will fit differently and the seatbelt still may not fit the child correctly. With the child sitting with his/her back against the back of the vehicle seat and their feet firmly on the vehicle floor, the vehicle seat belt should fit the child across the upper thighs/lower hips (NOT THE ABDOMEN) and across the shoulder (NOT THE NECK). If the seat belt does not fit like this, put the child back in a booster seat. If the child is in a booster seat and the vehicle seat belt is not fitting like this, put the child back in a 5 point harnessed car seat. The booster seat puts the child up enough so the seat belt sits across the strong bones in the body: the hips and the shoulders. If the seat belt is sitting across soft parts of the body such as the abdomen, the seat belt can cause fatal damage to the internal organs and blood vessels.  Seat belts were designed for adults to sit across the strong bones to protect in a crash; this is why children need boosters to boost them up so the seat belt can fit correctly. And for goodness sake, do not allow any one in your vehicle to ride with the shoulder belt behind their back. This is unsafe and leaves the passenger unrestrained to fly forward and/or out of their seat. Also, there are booster seats designed for the older child and some are even made to match the interior of the vehicle. These booster seats are relatively inexpensive and offer a great alternative for the child who might be sensitive about still riding in a booster, yet still needs one to ride safe. These thinner booster seats are not for the smaller, younger child, but rather usually for the child 8-12 years old.
  8. The safest place for children under the age of 13 to ride in a vehicle is in the back seat . This is based on research and the current recommendation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We are all safest riding in the back seat.
  9. Watch out! Limit Distractions. No texting. No phone. Watch the road. Let us all continue to remind each other of this because anyone can fall into bad habits and it is not okay. It is dangerous. Remember to put something you need for your day in the back seat with your baby just as an extra step to safe guard your baby from being left behind.  With detours and a racing mind of to-do lists, babies have been forgotten in vehicles accidentally and died from being left in a hot car. Tell your child care provider to always call if your child is expected and does not arrive. Also, know that during a crash, everything in your car becomes a projectile. Keep this in mind as hard toys and items can cause injury.
  10. Now go hug your babies. Love them. Do everything you can to protect them. They are worth it. They are worth the extra precautions we take. They are the priority. Stay strong in your convictions to do the right thing to keep your children safe every time. None of us parents are perfect. We are all learning and growing each day. Ask for help. Let us each encourage one another to press on to do the best we can to take care of the littles we have been entrusted with. Blessings and Stay Safe!

One last thing, your car seat has an expiration date, usually 6 years from the date it was manufactured. If you have a used car seat make sure that it has never been in a crash, not recalled, that you have all the parts and the manual before you use it for your child.

Okay, now you know. I can move beyond this now. In all honesty, I didn’t always buckle my kids up correctly because I did not know anything about car seats when I first became a parent, but I was motivated to learn more and more  with each child to keep them safe. Car seats can be complicated, but I was determined to do it right for my own kids so I went and became a certified car seat chic. With my own kids, my youngest stayed rear facing until over 3 years old, all of them were in a harnessed car seat until they were at least 7 years old, and sat in a booster seat until at least age 10.  Most of their friends have moved out of each stage much faster. This can be hard at times, but I continue to discuss with my kids each step of the way so they understand why we do what we do.  They have learned to understand that as their mommy, I can not know what I know and not do what I do to keep them safe to the best of my ability.

I like these sites sites below because they provide reputable and reliable expert information:

http://carseatblog.com/

http://thecarseatlady.com/

http://csftl.org/

healthychildren.org : (https://healthychildren.org/english/safety-prevention/on-the-go/pages/default.aspx)

**Note the picture above is of my daughter when she was 2 years old when she insisted on wearing her helmet while riding rear-facing in her car seat. This picture was used because it is a sweet memory and I as her Mama captured a moment where my child wanted to be safe. Please note it is not recommended that children ride in car seats with helmets to date. While I will not compromise on decreased safety with my children, I will entertain their ideas and encourage them when they want to partake in keeping themselves and others safer.

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Fierce

The word Fierce came across my list-feed as a word to write about today and I was intrigued because to me Fierce symbolizes Mothering (yes, capital M) to the fullest.  Fierce is the mother who chooses to eat healthy and live a healthy life style so the baby growing inside her has the best chance to be born healthy. Fierce is the mother who gives up her newborn baby to people she does not know, but trusts and hopes they will be able to love and raise her baby in her absence. Fierce is the new mother who has waited for years and cried many tears to have a baby and is now holding her new baby whom she has been entrusted with to love and to raise. Fierce is the new mother who has endured hours of labor and now holds her newborn baby. Fierce is the new mother who was not able to take her new baby home with her. Fierce is the mother whom had to say goodbye to her new baby forever immediately after birth.

Fierce is the new mother who is scared and alone but will now do what she has to do to provide for and protect her baby. Fierce is the mother who is a single mother whose task list and bills are unending yet she pushes on. Fierce is the mother who has to leave her baby all day to go to work in order to provide for her child. Fierce is the mother who chooses to let go of a flourishing career to stay home and care for her child. Fierce is the mother who will rescue her child from dangerous situations and dangerous people. Fierce is the mother who is proactive and does all she can to prevent, provide and protect her child. Fierce is the mother who is praying for her child to be healed, to healthy, to be safe… Fierce is the mother who stands up FOR her child. Fierce is the mother who stands up TO her child. Fierce is the mother who teaches her child right from wrong, good from bad and holds them accountable for their actions. Fierce is the mother who teaches her child how to be responsibile. Fierce is the mother who teaches by example by holding herself accountable to the same standard she wants her child to live by. Fierce is the mother who stands up for what she believes in. Fierce is the mother who does not waiver or go against her convictions because of what is popular, but holds it to herself to stand strong. Fierce is the mother who re-evaluates. Fierce is the mother who listens.

Fierce is the mother who can respectfully disagree with those who parent differently and believe differently. Fierce is the mother who is open to learning and growing personally. Fierce is the mother who acknowledges when she makes a mistake and grows from it. Fierce is the mother who knows she is imperfect and knows her limitations. Fierce is the mother who can say no and stand to it. Fierce is the mother who can let her yes be yes and her no be no. Fierce is the mother who is forgiving. Fierce is the mother who knows what is best for her child. Fierce is the mother who will fight for her child. Fierce is the mother who keeps pressing on and does not give up even when the fight is hard and the road is long. Fierce is the mother who can give herself grace especially when she makes mistakes and keeps going. Fierce is the mother who says “I’m sorry”. Fierce is the mother who will walk through the darkness with her child and bring them back to the light. Fierce is the mother who gets her child to church on Sunday despite all the hassles it took to get there. Fierce is the mother who gets her child to school on time. Fierce is the mother who works hard to provide the best opportunities for her child.  Fierce is the mother who teaches her child and prioritizes what are the best influences and activities to have in her child’s life. Fierce is the mother who follow-ups with her child and helps them work through obstacles and difficulties. Fierce is the mother who talks with her child.

Fierce is the mother who sacrifices her own self indulgences and time for her child. Fierce is the mother who knows her time with her child is limited and these days are fleeting. Fierce is the mother who has to say goodbye to her child in this lifetime. Fierce is the mother who must go on without her child with her. Fierce is the mother who despite crushing heartache, loves endlessly and knows that love is eternal. Fierce is the mother who spends quality time with her child.  Fierce is the mother who praises her child. Fierce is the mother who knows unconditional loves and gives it. Fierce is the mother who hugs and shows her child she loves them with her actions and her words.  Fierce is the mother who is also soft and teaches her child how to be compassionate, kind, thoughtful. Fierce is the mother who teaches her child the importance of rest. Fierce is the mother who plays with her child. Fierce is the mother who advocates for her child’s wellness and feeds them healthy food. Fierce is the mother who has endured heartache and grief and loss and still presses on. And finally, Fierce is the mother who loves her child with all her heart and all her soul and all her might (but they still have to clean their room). Fierce is the mother who loves her child enough…to do all these things. Motherhood is not for sissies; it is fierce. IMG_0872.jpg

To Breastfeed or Not to Breastfeed?

You made it, Momma, to the glorious finish and you can now hold your baby or babies if you have been blessed with multiples. What an amazing miraculous feat and the prize is worth your pain, discomfort and sacrifices you have made along the way!  Hopefully, your new little love is healthy and breathing well.  I can empathize not everyone has had these best outcomes. As you hold your new bundle of joy, the next question is (and I hope you have given some thought to it prior to this moment) are you going to breastfeed or formula feed?

Sometimes mothers really have not had the opportunity to ponder this thought much because their baby or babies came too early. I have been working with infants and premature newborns for many years in my profession and have seen the tides change on breastfeeding. The current tide is bringing with it renewal of support for what has been the natural way to feed our babies since the beginning of time. I hope new mothers receive adequate support and education to make the best choices for themselves and their babies.  This entry is written in support of Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

The history of breastfeeding is quite interesting. Well, I guess not that interesting. Women were created to provide milk for their offspring in this highly intelligent detailed system within the body that creates just the right uniquely composed milk for the infant, with just the right calories, just the right amount of milk for the infant, and is warm and ready to feed just like many other animals in this world. That in and of itself is fascinating. What is so intriguing and sad is that in all of our humanly intelligence, humans have become quite foolish in substituting artificial milk for our babies as the norm in many cultures.

Formula is not the natural choice as it was not uniquely designed by our human bodies for our human offspring. New mothers have been given mixed messages and often have limited to no support with breastfeeding. Some parents then seem surprised when their babies on formula are more fussy, have more frequent and large spit ups, have increased constipation, formula intolerances, illnesses, and gas pain. Breastfeeding rates in the 1970s were at some of the lowest ever in this country.  Consequently, I was not breastfed as an infant. I do have asthma and a plethora of allergies. Perhaps if I were breastfeed, maybe I would not? I will never know and I cannot change the past. However, knowing what I know now, you bet I wanted to breastfeed my own babies and now support and encourage other mothers to have the same opportunity. Research supports that those who are breastfed tend have better immunity, decreased allergies, decreased constipation, decreased digestion and abdominal discomforts, decreased sleep related deaths, decreased illnesses, and increased cognitive abilities. Breastmilk is packed with nutrients and referred to as “liquid gold” nutrition for infants. For mothers, current research suggests benefits of breastfeeding may include decreased post-partum depression, ability to lose pregnancy weight faster, decrease risk of breast cancer, and increased maternal/infant bonding which is beneficial to both mother and infant. The point is that current research supports what our ancestors knew from way back: Human milk is best for Human babies. Breastfeeding was the norm then. Why is it not the norm now? It is why humankind has survived and is where we are today. Therefore, breastfeeding exclusively and directly is the most natural and optimal way to feed your baby. Supplementation with formula should ideally only be given when medically necessary and your pediatrician says your baby needs it.

I am well aware that not all mothers are able to successfully breastfeed and that not all mothers want to breastfeed.  Let us all respect this. I am also aware that not all mothers receive the encouragement and up-to-date information they need when they need it. I have had many mothers tell me they wished they had breastfed their babies but they did not have support when their baby was learning to feed.  Others have shared they they did not know their baby would not later learn to breastfeed if bottle feeding had been established first. Learning to breastfeed can be more difficult for an infant if the infant has learned to bottle feed first.  If you desire to breastfeed your infant or give it a try, please seek support.  Please talk to your infant’s pediatrician and a lactation consultant.

Here are the tips I have found helpful for successful breastfeeding. You may find these beneficial to you as you embark on this new journey.

1. Set a breastfeeding goal. Now relax.

2. Direct breastfeed your baby every feeding or pump your milk if you are unable to breastfeed your baby. Know that in order for your body to make milk you have to feed your baby or pump your milk. If you skip a feeding and feed your baby formula, your body will not make as much milk. If you are away from your baby, pump your milk to maintain your milk supply. Your new baby should breastfeed about every 1.5-3 hours. This helps to establish a good milk supply and so your baby can gain weight and grow. I learned the hard way to not allow my baby to go more than 3 hours during the day without feeding. With my first baby, I would let her take long naps all day and she would be awake ready to play all night. Thus, I learned during the day to wake my sleeping baby if it had been more than 3 hours since she last started to feed. I then was a much more rested Momma. When baby is gaining weight and breastfeeding well, you can let those longer intervals happen at night so you can get more rest.

3.  Do not supplement with formula unless needed and/or advised to do so from a physician. Many mothers get concerned their baby is not getting enough milk. Many times this is because they get nervous about not knowing an exact amount the baby is getting. When direct breastfeeding the number focus changes to how many and how heavy the diapers are, weight gain, how often the baby breastfeeds, and how many minutes does the baby breastfeed. Generally, if your baby is breastfeeding for at least 10 minutes every 1.5-3 hours, they are making many wet diapers, pooping, gaining weight, and calm between feedings, then it is highly likely your baby is getting enough milk. Communicate with your baby’s doctor about your concerns.

4. Seek out help.  You are not a failure.  You cannot do everything. Learn this now and save yourself a lot of tears and feelings of defeat. Like most of us mommas, you won’t learn it, you will still try to do everything and learn your own limitations. Breathe and don’t rush this stage. If you blink, you will miss it. As for breastfeeding, sometimes it is easy for mothers and babies and sometimes it is not.  Sometimes breastfeeding requires some intervention for success. First and foremost, seek expert help because sometimes trouble shooting with lactation specialists can find a solution that can lead to successful breastfeeding. What about the mothers who have tried and tried to breastfeed and can not produce enough milk despite seeking out lactation support?  I can appreciate how difficult this can be if in the end, one is still unable to breastfeed when a mother wanted to. I have a friend and colleague who is a loving, mother of 4 children who was not physically able to breastfeed her babies. She is a good mother.  She is a huge breastfeeding advocate too. Her children were all formula fed. This is where the intelligence of formula is such a wonderful invention. Not all babies can or have the opportunity to breastfeed and so we do have formula. Babies have to eat. While formula is more costly and not human breast milk, it is a life saver and has an important place in infant feeding when breast milk is unavailable.

5.  Put your baby skin to skin. It is worth it. Skin to skin also known as Kangaroo Care can be experienced by all mothers even those who choose or are unable to breastfeed their infants. Kangaroo care is laying your naked baby (you can leave their diaper on unless you want to get peed on) on your bare chest. This is calming to the infant and even to the mother. Your baby can once again hear your heartbeat. It is a sweet snuggle moment. Breathe the smell of your baby in. Kangaroo care helps keep your baby warm by your warmth; you may choose to cover your baby’s body with a light blanket while they lay on your chest if you are concerned your baby may get a little chilly on their backside. Keep the blanket away from their precious little face so they can see you and breathe well. Some mothers even want to experience their infant suckling at the breast; even adoptive mothers. And some mothers want the experience to try to breastfeed if even just once.  All of this can be beneficial for maternal bonding with the infant. Again please discuss with your baby’s doctor and consider consulting with a lactation consultant if you would like to explore how to partake in some of these experiences with your new baby even if you are unable to breastfeed and still have questions.

6.  Advocate and speak up if you want to breastfeed your baby. The clock is ticking. After the baby is born and ready to take feedings this is what I call the “golden hour” of breastfeeding opportunity.  It is more than an hour, but rather those first days when baby is learning to take feedings by mouth. Back in the not so olden days, healthcare staff would feed infants a bottle of formula and tell mothers they could work on breastfeeding at home. We know now that this is not the case.  Once a baby gets the hang of taking a bottle first it is difficult for them to learn to suckle successfully at the breast.  Most infants who are healthy enough to bottle feed can breastfeed. Please talk to your physician with any questions. Some infants do medically need to both breast and bottle feed in the beginning because they are premature or have other health issues. Please discuss your wishes to breastfeed with your infant’s health team and speak up to get support. I have seen infants learn to successfully direct breastfeed and bottle-feed because mother did both daily while the infant was learning to feed. I encourage mother’s to speak up. The goal is to have the infant direct breast feeding exclusively.

7.  Happy diaper changing because your new baby should be going often.  If no one has shared this, new babies leak; out of their diapers that is. Often they spit up too. They should have wet diapers about every feeding. The frequency of pooping will vary depending on the age and your baby and if they are exclusively breastfed or supplemented with formula.  All babies should be pooping especially after birth. Sometimes the diaper leaks and poop goes up the back. Consider yourself forewarned.  Breastfeeding poop is often be more liquid and not soft formed like formula feeding poop is.

8. If breastfeeding is painful, many times it is due to the infant not latching on the breast correctly and a lactation consultant may be able to help you with this. Positioning is pivotal to success. Changing positions can sometimes help this. I also found lanolin nipple cream to be beneficial.

9.  If you require medications, discuss with your physician, the pharmacist, and even a lactation consultant about these medications and breastfeeding. Most providers are becoming more supportive of breastfeeding mothers, however, I have experienced some who were not up-to-date and had to circle back for another more breastfeeding friendly medication because breastfeeding was important to me and my baby. I was not okay with pumping and dumping unless it was absolutely necessary for our health and well being. In my case, pumping and dumping wasn’t necessary as there was another medication that was able to be ordered instead.

10. Practice the ABCs of Safe Sleep. Alone, on his/her Back, and in a Crib. I know there are mixed messages out there, but I have seen and heard of enough tragedies to know the risk is not worth co-sleeping. New moms and dads are tired, more feel like a train-hit-them exhausted, and babies cannot reposition themselves if they get into a place where breathing is difficult. You can place your infant in the same room with you in his/her crib or bassinet.

11. For babies who tend to spit-up more often, I have found holding them upright for up to 30 minutes after they feed helped. Sometimes I secured my little love in a front back (not a sling) to achieve this.  If your baby is particularly barfy, please consult your baby’s doctor.

12.  Some babies are sensitive to Momma’s diet. Often it can be dairy or other foods in the mother’s diet. If your baby is still fussy and you have concerns again talk to the physician.

13.  Babies can be fussy.  It happens. They make noises and move their little arms and legs. There are many reasons why your baby might cry. If your baby has fed well, been changed into a clean diaper, and you have tried to problem solve what might be the cause, perhaps try to use some calming techniques and see if they help. After breastfeeding has been well established,  a pacifier may be calming to your baby between feedings.  I found the techniques in “The Happiest Baby on the Block” by Dr. Harvey Karp to provide helpful calming techniques. The 5 S’s which are described are basically what most of us already know but often forget when we have a crying baby in our ear.  The 5’s include: swaddling, holding the infant side-lying, singing/shushing, sucking, and swinging.  If swaddling, I found it best to swaddle my infant so they could get their hands to their mouth for calming and exploration.  For the safety of your baby, it is not advised to put your baby to sleep side-lying, but rather always on their back to sleep. Here is the to the link to that specific site if you want to learn more: https://happiestbaby.com/using-the-5-ss/ . If you are unable to calm your baby, please contact your physician and/or call for help. If you find yourself becoming frustrated or too upset, place your baby safely in their crib and call their physician or someone for help.

14.  Be ready for a life changing experience. Your story and experience matters and will be unique. Everyone seems to have advice and you will find what works best for you. Give yourself grace. You do not have to be perfect.

Finally, I hope that you have the information you need to make the best decision for you and your baby.  I hope you speak up, ask questions and are empowered to be an advocate for yourself and your baby. There is more support available than in previous years. You will choose what is best for you and your baby because it is what we mommas do. Breastfeeding was a wonderful sweet experience for me and my children. I found it to be a time saver with always having my baby’s milk ready to feed and attached. It was cheaper and saved me so much time. I did not have to worry about running out of formula, washing bottles, mixing formula, or preparing bottles…For me, it was the best choice to breastfeed and what a precious time it was!

During this Breastfeeding Awareness Month and beyond, I hope all of us mothers feel encouraged and supported regardless of if we breastfeed or formula feed. We all want healthy, growing babies and healthy, positive mommas.  Take care of yourself as you take care of your baby. Embrace this special time. It does go fast.  May God bless you and your new littlest love.

IMG_0454Here is a wonderful resource for breastfeeding and other questions you may have for your baby:

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/default.aspx

As for this and any information you find on the internet, do not let it take the place of consulting with your baby’s physician. This is one mom reaching out to encourage another. Be discerning of the information you receive as there are a lot of conflicting and confusing information out there. Always check the source and check it against current expert guidelines. Take Care.

 

“Children are a gift from the Lordthey are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

The Gift of Today

I sit here and marvel as the sun awakens to a glorious promising new day.  It has been a cluster lately. A cluster of a lot of different sorts of thunderstorms. The gray days can string on and seem unending especially when you look up and all you see is a blanket of gray and another storm coming your way. You can take cover only so long and then you have to go out into the rain and live a little or your own heart will succumb to the gray and gloominess of being stuck inside. I find it inspiring that my children love to go out in the rain. They love to jump in puddles, run in the rain, swim in the rain.  They love watching cars spray waves of water as the wheels drive through puddles and splash everyone walking by. My children remind me even the rain offers its own experiences and fun.  Rain is a necessity for growth and to sustain life.

I believe my children will be overjoyed when I go wake them in a moment to see the sun has finally come up. But for one more moment, I sit. I watch. I write. I am breathing in the fresh air. As I type, I look out to see a beautiful baby blue sky, birds flying and majestic fluffy white puffy clouds. I sip my coffee and want to enjoy the splendor of this site all day. I don’t want time to steal this moment away. I have no profound wisdom to share of mine. My fingers are merely typing what thoughts come into my mind real time. It’s what I like to do. I suppose no one is really interested in my own thoughts which is okay because we all have our own thoughts to ponder. I hope we can all take a moment to ponder our own thoughts. Who are you? Where are you? How did you get here? Where are you going? What makes your heart sing? What makes you feel alive? What makes you laugh? Perhaps we need not even ponder such deep thoughts, but rather just breathe.  Breathing in and of itself is incredible.

What a gift it is to take a moment to be still. To be part of life and the living. What a true divine moment it is to be part of a miraculous new morning. We’ve all endured and survived thunderstorms in our lives. Some of us are still in the eye of a great storm.  I pray there is sunshine soon on your horizon. It sure does make me appreciate the sunshine and clear skies after a duration of storms, gray and rain.

I’m not sure what the next hours will bring, the weather is calling for another storm. I will deal with that when it comes. For this moment, I am going to relish in this beauty.  I’m going to finish this delightful cup of coffee and then I’m going to go play.  I’m also learning to play in the rain. I suppose I can practice those skills later. Rain can be refreshing, sweet and cleansing.  For today, I’m over the rain and ready for some invigorating sunshine which inspires my heart and soul. Bring it on. I’m getting out there to be part of this gift of today because this is the present. IMG_0172.JPG

Make it a great one!

So How Are You Enjoying This Weather?

Ha! Are you kidding me? If you are around me long enough, you will soon learn that I am not much of a fan of cold an inclement weather. I do not like gray skies, nor rain, nor frigid cold nor ice. I can tolerate a little chilly or an alfresco walk here and there, and maybe a wee bit of snow on occasion can be nice, but then I expect sunny skies to appear and the warm air to beckon me back outside to play. However, here in the land of which I habitat, it is cold and overcast much of the time. Winters can be brutal, windy, snowy and icy. Gray skies dominate and precipitation is prevalent much of the year. And when the sun does finally shine its bright rays, we gleefully forget the dreary days and rejoice. It’s almost insane how some people around here wear shorts the moment the sun comes out even if its only 15 degrees outside. Yes, those are the crazies who get a little over zealous about the sun shining without considering the actual temperature or any frostbite they might incur. I do not really understand this mindset, because again I don’t like to be cold therefore I don’t wear shorts until its 70 degrees outside. This winter so far has been a little gentler, but still not warm enough for me. I am neither motivated nor inspired to go outside in the cold. Tis’ quite uncomfortable and I am a like a bear in hibernation. So while usually I embrace the wondrous awesomeness of creation by being part of the great outdoors, during winter it is difficult to get me outside. It’s just too damn cold.

Now that I have provided a little background, let’s discuss today. I was at the grocery store checking out when this man who was bagging my groceries so pleasantly asked me, “So how are you enjoying the weather?” I looked at this jubilant smiling energetic soul before me who was radiating light. Are you kidding me? Was he joking? “How am I enjoying this weather?” From the innocent honest expression on his beaming face, I could tell he was not kidding. He was for real. My first thought was “I’m not, it sucks. It’s cold, dreary and gray and depressing. I am so over this. All I want to do is go back home, get back on my pajamas and slippers and sip hot cocoa with lots of whipped cream until it’s over. I want sunshine!” But I paused. I assessed the situation of this gentleman radiating light and I did not want to be a light dimmer, but rather a conductor of good will and glowing positivity.

Who was this person bagging my groceries so pleasantly, smiling and giving away positives to everyone he passed? And why? Where does his joy come from? By some assessments, he might have been just a low paid bagger at a grocery store, who may have little education. I don’t know his personal story or what brought him to work in this position, but I do know this gentleman offers more to society than many of the highest paid individuals I have ever met. He offers joy and brings the most zeal to being a bagger than I’ve ever seen. I was reminded it is not so much about the job you do as much as how you do it. What a divine position it is when we humble ourselves to serve others and do so joyfully.

I have found some who have more materialistically, make more money, who think they know more, and/or are more refined or esteemed to a high social status, are often some of the most negative, unpleasant, selfish and rude people I have ever met and so full of themselves it is difficult to be in the room with them. It is all about perspective and I needed to realign and change my perspective. I needed to change my perspective on success, my attitude, and the weather.

I responded with, “I am enjoying this weather now. It is a lovely day. Thank you for asking.

He smiled brightly and said, “May God bless you. Have a blessed day.”

I had to change my lens and remind myself life is all about perspective. Today the weather is now splendid and now it’s snowing. It’s beautiful. My perspective has changed. What a glorious day!

It was not the million-dollar corporate businessman who reminded me of this, it was the individual who bagged my groceries; the individual whose wisdom and view on life is worth more than a million dollars. Maybe it is the rest of us who have our perspectives skewed as we get distracted and become self consumed, hardened and lose our priorities of what matter most in life. Maybe it’s the rest of us who have the deficits when we over-think, over-complicate, and lose sight of what matters when put our own agenda ahead of people and relationships and being kind to one another. Perhaps, we could all learn from this joyful grocery bagger to offer an authentic smile and genuinely bless those we encounter through our day with how we carry ourselves. Lesson learned from the blessed bagger.

This reminder was beneficial to me as I was beginning to evaluate my own success and failures in life based on things that will pass away and feelings of inadequacy had begun taking root in my heart. Whatever you do, do it with all your heart. All jobs matter and have value. Successful is not gauged by the amount of money one makes, but rather on the blessing, joy, and hope one brings to the lives of others. Sometimes in our own intelligence we become numb and dumb and we lose the simplicity of experiencing, giving and receiving joy.

Too often I hear well-intentioned people coaching others with phrases like “You weren’t created to be mediocre, you were born for success”, “Achieve your dreams”, “Don’t stop until you’ve reached the top…, “You were born to be the best,” “You can be anything you want to be”, …the list goes on and on with messages to encourage us to be more than we currently are and to keep going until we get there. Whew! That can exhausting and we can easily lose our way. While these messages can encourage and inspire us, they can also be dangerous. They can lead us down a path of self-absorption and determination for things that are not in our best interest or maybe not within our skill set or gifts. Hard work and determination is a great thing, but misapplied in the wrong direction can lead to disappointment ,burnout, confusion, and loss of focus on the more important aspects in life such as valuing people over things or status. What if we were all to bloom where we are presently planted?

There is a time and season for everything. Some seasons we are called to be right where we are. To just be and work where we are. To serve where we are. To fellowship where we are. To listen. Whether that place be changing diapers, kissing boo boos, bagging groceries, picking up dog poop, or leading business meetings, God can use us right where we are to shine and make a difference. It is all about the attitude and perspective. God can turn the ordinary into extraordinary in his timing and in his ways.

Sometimes the answer is to be still in who he created you to be right where you are for this season. Indeed, he calls us to take action, get busy, to be steadfast and persistent to the purpose he has each of us called to. The only way we know which direction to go is to stay plugged into God’s word and in prayer. Let us spur one another on to be the best we were created to be and to continue the good work started in us. I should not become complacent, but lean into God’s word for direction and guidance. Let us continue on our individual paths of improvement, but not at the cost of losing ourselves by over-complicating, over-committing and over-achieving the process to get there. I need to allow God to be the lamppost at my feet and illuminate the path of which I should go. It’s all about perspective. So which lens am I wearing today? Which filter am I viewing from?  I still like sunshine and warm weather, but there is still joy to be experienced even in the bitterness of Winter.

Today, I am reminded, “This is the day the Lord has made, so let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” Philippians 4:12

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens

a time to be born and a time to die,a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live.  That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-14

 

Don’t Forget to Pray

Sometimes despite your best intentions and attempts to cling onto reason, sanity, cool, calm and collectiveness (is that even a word?), you blow it.  Or maybe you don’t. Yeah me neither, but hypothetically speaking I am sure there are moms out there who have intense days even though they have tried within their mighty mom selves to keep it together and attempt to control everything and everyone in their world. And then the reality hits like a ton of bricks…I cannot control anyone or any circumstances. It was all a big facade to think I had the power to control these shorter, or rather taller younger persons under my guidance. This can be feel defeating, maddening, humbling, and/or relieving depending on what state of mind I am in at the moment. And then the guilt of being an imperfect mom can really make that stinky day even worse.

Having dinner together as often as possible is a priority in our home. When coming together for dinner, one might find lots of fussing, sibling rivalry, and everyone bringing their ‘tudes to the table, but we still come together anyway. I am a strong protector of our family dinners.  I get pretty hyped up if I see a cell phone at the dinner table or if one of our crew is dilly dallying about not coming to the dinner when called. I don’t really do well with gripers who come complaining and causing strife from the get-go, but we still come together anyway. I may have called out “You will sit with your family during dinner and be pleasant or at least keep it to yourself!” on more than one occasion and possibly with a little more passion depending on the circumstance and drama displayed. If they are pleasant, all is lovely in my world and I am a happy Mama. And if they are being obstinate and disagreeable, then I do indeed call it out. Our family dinners might not be the picture perfect moment of sweetness, but this is what we do. And we pray too. Some meals have been more hurried and chaotic and the starving beasts have dived into the food before praying. But usually one of them will now call it out, “Hey, we forgot to pray!” and we stop our meal, and bow our head as a family, and pray.  For that one moment we have silence, offer thanks, and display reverence. It is truly a miracle each time it happens. Sometimes it is the best part of my day. We do this togetherness meal thing, catch up on everyone’s day and it has become an important part of our connectivity as a family. Ultimately, my kids now hold us accountable to the “Don’t forget to pray.”It makes me smile they are now the ones who remember.

In the same way, I am reminded of the priority to fall to my knees, bow my head and pray, even more so when the distressing days happen. I do not even have to talk. I do not have to have an eloquent speech of prayer prepared. Maybe that moment in parenting or in my life did not go as I had envisioned it or maybe it came out of no where and mowed me down and took my breath away, but I can regroup. I can humble my anxious heart and self in prayer and breathe deep. I can stop reacting. Oh, I must stop reacting. I can pray intently. I can pray purposefully, I can pray specifically. I can pray quietly, Or I can just pray blankly, exasperated and speechless. Anything goes in prayer. I am finding even if my circumstances do not change, my heart does. And I grow. I am reminded I am not fighting these battles alone. I am not alone. I am not defeated. And even in my moments of suckage and error, I can receive mercy and redemption if I humble myself and own my part.

Parenting is a humbling experience in and of itself. I really thought I was going to be the perfect parent. I don’t know about you, but I could not wait to be a Mommy. I had judged and taken inventory of good parenting and bad parenting observations through my life and knew I was going to get it right. Or so I thought. I was wrong. Imagine my disappointment when low and behold, I was shocked when I realized my skills were not up to par when I was thrown curve balls and strong willed children. Gasp. These feisty battles were not the loving, tender, dream-come-true moments I had expected. The skills I had prepared to nip those behaviors in the bud, were not effective. I was left feeling angry and unsure of what to do. It can be quite confusing. Our elders tell us to spank. Our community experts tell us not to spank or reprimand or hold accountable. The culture encourages us to be softies and undermines parental authority, then they are the first to judge parents when children and adolescents have a lack of respect for authority, people, or property. Our culture is permissive and gluttonous. I witness children in an entitled culture are becoming disrespectful, rude and lacking humility. They are becoming more self centered much like the world they are immersed in. But all is not lost. Our children have hope. I have not and will not give up on them. I will fight. It might not always be a peaceful ride, but I trust love covers a multitude of sins. “Love always protects. Love always trusts. Love always hopes, always perseveres…Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).

I can teach humility best by example. Humility is a life skill. It is our ability to recognize our weaknesses and limitations. While our culture may see this as damning, it is quite the opposite. Denying the truth of our weaknesses, limitations, or erroneous ways falsely elevates the sense of self and can lead to characteristics of narcissism. Humility, not to be confused with self loathing or self criticism, can strengthen and establish a realistic view of oneself which is not so focused on self elevation, but rather focuses more on serving others and making our world a better place.

After humbling myself in prayer, I can stand tall and trust all things will work together for good because I have been called for this purpose. I embrace this assignment. Whew this parenting gig can be exhausting. Sometimes I am dealing with immature, irrational, demanding, defiant, spirits who want autonomy this minute and feel entitled to everything their wayward hearts desire new, nice, and now. Sometimes that person I am dealing with is me. I am reminded, I am fighting a battle for the hearts of my beloveds while also keeping myself aligned as well. I know I am not in this battle alone. I am fiercely fighting the imprinting of the world’s influence of selfishness, greed and gluttony, to break through and teach respect, humility, and strength.

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I hope my children will learn to be a warrior for whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praise worthy. If I can grow my beloved babes to become respectful, honorable, kind, strong, hardworking adults, I will feel like I succeeded and like all my tears and my broken heart will be vindicated. Until then, I will keep pressing on. I will stand strong. I will stand tall. I will hold my ground. I will love them intensely. I will fight for them fiercely. I will give them room to grow and step in when needed. I will be unpopular at times, because I will stand for what is best for them not what is pop culture. I will stand for truth. I will admit when I am wrong. I do not have to be perfect. I will always advocate for their well being and best interest…all because I love them enough…And I will give it all to God, because I can only do so much. I am only one person; one Mama. I will make mistakes, and I will need a whole lot of grace. And I will not forget to pray.

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

“Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.” Proverbs 22:4

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“If Mama Ain’t Happy”

“If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. This is a wise old truth I think most of us can attest to even today. Moms often are the rudder which determines the mindset in which the family will have. Whether her family is positive or negative, is often determined by how she carries herself. I should stop here as this is almost too convicting even as I write this. If Mamas are acting defeated, depressed, mean-spirited, ballistic or full of anger, chances are the whole family will take this on and carry this into all areas of their lives…school, work, and relationships. This toxic behavior can infiltrate to the core of all she has influence over and thus spread like a wildfire of rage, anger, brokenness, depression, negativity, and hurting that will extend far beyond her own family. Likewise, if Mama is a spring of flowing love, graciousness and forgiveness, she sets the course of a refreshing renewal of unconditional love, restoration and hope.

In order for a Mama to do this, she must protect her own heart and mind against such attacks that lead to feeling overwhelmed, and not allow negativity to take root which has the power to hurt those around her. While Mama has a huge responsibility to try to keep realigning her own heart and subsequent behavior as a good example and to be a conductor of light, love and hope to her family, this does not mean she is responsible for all the negativity around her; nor is she responsible when one of her own flock has assumed a negative unpleasant disposition. It is not Mama’s fault every time someone has a bad attitude in her home. Do not bear that responsibility nor take on the bad attitude.

Mamas do not need to be perfect. Too often, I try too hard to achieve perfection, which is impossible.  We are fighting for our own hearts and the hearts of our loved ones in this dark world. It is our responsibility to build up and love unconditionally. In order to be a vessel of light and repel and/or repent negativity, we must wear our armor (Ephesians 6:13-18). We must guard are hearts and minds and stand in truth. If we become so entrenched in the world, we will become exhausted and worn down and this will leave us vulnerable to the world living in us and acting through us. This is why I am learning the importance of establishing healthy boundaries and self-care. Taking care of my mind, body, and spirit and setting limits and boundaries are essential to keeping myself in a good positive, pleasant, peace place.

Whether you are a Mama or not, we are all conductors of something from the world around us and often depending on our environments will take on what we are subjected to. When I am around positive people, it fuels me and exponentially positively affects those around me. It seems to give life and vigor to my own life and then I carry that on. It brightens my life. It is like a refreshing drink of water to quench my thirst. But when I am around those who are negative or I myself am being negative, it has a toxic affect on those around me and dims the light of hope. It breeds negativity.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” Proverbs 16:24

I often need to stop and check myself of the following:  Do I have an affinity for those who are positive or negative? What is my behavior and the words I am speaking conducting to those around me? Am I a conductor of light or darkness? What kind of energy am I transferring to the world in which I influence? What sparks am I igniting or dimming? Are my words and actions hurtful and harmful or are they helpful and healing? Do I bring hope and inspiration in life and love to those around me?

As I sit here taking a deep breath, I am reminded that in this moment I am filled with life; and where there is life, there is hope. I can do better. I do not need to be a happy beacon of sunshine all the time, even that is not always appropriate in all circumstances. But I can learn to check my attitude at the door, and pray for Divine intervention to help me in all situations to guard my heart and mind. Let us spur one another on to continue the good work started in us. I hope we can all be conductors of light and love today. Now that I have humbled myself before you, I must don my armor to ward off negativity, so that I may be a conductor of light.IMG_8716

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowel. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

“Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like starts in the universe” Philippians 2:14-15

“Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:4-12