It would appear there is a bit of a baby boom going on this year. I know so many pregnant ladies, it’s unbelievable. We see our friends (and friends of friends) sharing their pregnancy excitement and swollen ankles, ultrasound pictures, and bump photos on Facebook, even baby rooms on Pinterest and it’s enough to make us go, “Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
Once mama and baby are home, we are SO excited to come on over, cuddle that sweet new baby and visit. While we look forward to these visits, they can be a source of stress for new parents. It can be overwhelming to be breastfeeding seemingly around the clock, dealing with the sudden onslaught of total sleep deprivation, hormonal cocktails bubbling over, and STILL new mamas and papas feel like they have to entertain when people come to <cue the gratuitous Seinfeld reference> “SEE THE BABY!!”
New parents do want to share their beautiful bundles with you. Really. But there are few things you should do to make your visit one where the parents are refreshed after you leave versus more exhausted. Here are 5 tips to show some mad baby love to the new parents in your life, be helpful and not a royal PITA.
CALL FIRST. Please ask permission to see if you can come over. Don’t ever “pop by” a home with a new baby in it. You never know how that household slept the day or hour before and if they’ve finally just crashed after a marathon breastfeeding session. Normally I love and am very pro-pop-in but not where it pertains to new mamas and papas. Just don’t.
BRING FOOD. Or Starbucks. Or something those parents can use. When a rash of babes were born a few years ago, I brought a coffee and care package to all my mama friends. A new trashy magazine, a Maybelline mascara (hey, mamas like to feel sexy too even when we might not look it), and a bubblebath bomb. Finger Foods are super helpful, like bagels, muffins, or something they don't have to cook and can eat one-handed, because new parents are busy! Casseroles are also a great alternative. Be sure to include the cooking instructions and don’t put it in a container you “just have to get back”.
WASH YOUR HANDS. I know you want to grab that baby and just “Mmmmmmmmmm” inhale that sweet, baby smell. But please don’t make the new parents look like paranoid freaks. Any and all baby handlers should wash their hands before holding the baby. It’s just good manners and helps keep newborns with new immune systems safe from your cooties.
CELEBRATE SIBLINGS. If you’re bringing a gigantic diaper cake or other enormous gift for baby, please bring something small for siblings too. Little ones are dealing with enough feelings of jealousy, anxiety, and stress (even if they appear happy, their world has been changed forever). When I had my middle child so many thoughtful people brought a small toy or token for my oldest to make sure he felt special and loved too. It’s a gesture I’ve never forgotten.
DO SOMETHING. I know it’s so tempting to just sit there and snuggle that baby. But it would be so super cool if you would, you know, run a vacuum or something. Put away a full dishwasher, run a load of laundry, fold something, and take a to-do off that new mama/papa’s list. I guarantee they will love you for it. Once you finished your chore, then you can volunteer to smell/snuggle that new baby while mama and papa go for a much needed nap. ;)
And here’s one more that is really, really important: According to the US Mental Health Association, it’s estimated that between 50% and 80% of mothers experience the “Baby Blues”. Post-partum depression is still under-diagnosed and grossly under-treated. Therefore, any help, support, and resource you can provide to a family with a new addition is a BIG help. Tell those parents you’d happy to come and sit with baby on Saturday so they can nap. You’d love to take the other kid(s) to the park to build snowmen while she enjoys the quiet. Every little bit counts. It does take a village. And although we have technology and all the comforts we can possibly ask for–a helping, caring hand still goes a long way.
Breastfeeding is important for the health
of children and babies. My twins were preemies (born at 32 weeks) and I
was lucky to be in a hospital that was very supportive of
breastfeeding. While we had been planning that I would breastfeed, it
was my nurses that let me know how important breastmilk is for babies,
especially for preemies. Through them I learned that a mother’s milk is
particularly well formulated for her own children and the NICU nurses
really prefer to feed the babies breastmilk whenever possible.
women want women want to breastfeed their babies in the NICU and run
into obstacles that prevent them from breastfeeding. I will explain how
you can work through the obstacles of breastfeeding and pumping during
and after your babies NICU stay so that other mothers will have the
knowledge and courage to push through these obstacles.
had been planning to breastfeed, but my twins came suddenly. Born at
just 32 weeks, they were about 4 lbs each. I got to hold each of them
briefly, but they were quickly rushed off to the NICU (Neo-Natal
Intensive Care Unit). Once things settled down, I realized that I
couldn’t try breastfeeding without babies! I asked the nurse about a
pump, and she told me to rest and recover and that a lactation
consultant would come see me later.
We had a lot of complications, but I succeed in breastfeeding my twins exclusively for 11 months.
Here are some obstacles to breastfeeding and pumping for baby, and how we overcame them:
1. Breastfeeding and pumping seems too hard.
It can be hard.
Lots of things are hard. Raising kids will be hard at times, but they
are worth it. You have to decide what is important to you and put your
effort there. What’s hard for one person may not be hard for another.
2. I tried pumping, but nothing came out.
might not work for you at first. You need to try every few hours to get
your body to realize that its supposed to make milk. At first, nothing
may come out. This is normal. It isn’t actually necessary for a baby to
eat for the first 24 hours after birth, this is why all babies are
expected to lose weight in the first 24 hours. If you were suckling the
baby directly, you would probably not realize that he isn’t actually
getting milk, just being soothed by the act of nursing.
3. I tried pumping but so little came out I gave up.
The first milk that comes out is colostrum. Colustrum
is the most important milk you can give a newborn and is often called
“liquid gold.” There is very little colostrum, the first time you
actually get something out, it might be so little you think it’s not
worth it. Give it to the NICU nurses anyhow. They’ll get it out and give
it to your newborn. A newborn’s stomach is as small as a thimble, or
smaller in our case. Don’t give up, try again in several hours.
4. I’ve been pumping for a week and I still can’t get much milk to come out.
Some tricks that worked for me included: Getting a good nights sleep: sometimes the rest is more important than constant pumping.
Drink more fluids—lots of fluids.
Pump in the NICU where you can see and touch your babies.
yourself completely while pumping. Sometimes I just watched TV, read a
book, or looked at e-mail to distract myself completely from what I was
doing. Often I would look down and be pleasantly surprised by how full
the containers were. Just be careful not to get so distracted it all
5. I couldn’t nurse the babies right after giving birth.
don’t have to nurse or pump immediately after giving birth. Your body
is in major transition. You can even start breastfeeding (or pumping)
days after the babies are born. I had complications on my complications.
I tried pumping once the day after I gave birth, then I had more
problems, so it was at least 48 hours before I tried pumping again.
6. Pumping every 3 hours around the clock was too exhausting, so I quit.
frequently increases your supply. Sleep and rest also increases your
supply. During the day I tried to pump every 3 hours for the first week
or two, but because I wasn’t feeding babies directly, I slept longer
stretches at night. The real sleep helped me produce more milk, and at
some points, my full breasts woke me up. At first I tried to pump every 3
hours at night too, but the nurses encouraged me to rest instead. I’m
very glad they did!
7. My baby has a feeding tube or NG tube, so he can’t have breastmilk.
The nurses can put anything into those tubes (well, not anything),
and breastmilk is an excellent choice. I pumped directly into the
containers that they hooked up to the feeding machine to minimize
contamination. They were not allowed to reuse the containers, but we
took them home and used them for months for pumped breastmilk.
8. They say he needs more calories per feeding than he can get from breastmilk.
of my twins had trouble feeding. It took more energy to feed than he
was getting from breastmilk for months. The best solution? We added
formula to the breastmilk to get him more calories. Because of this, I
needed to keep pumping long after he was able to nurse. For several
months he got two of his feedings a day via bottle with breastmilk
fortified with formula, even when I could have to nursed him. This was a
great bonding opportunity for his dad!
9. Pumping hurts! So I quit.
may hurt. See if you can turn the settings down so the pressure is not
so strong. Hospital pumps are very strong (at least they were in 2004).
If you’re getting a pump for use at home, see if you can get it right
away, so the nurses can help with adjustments. Pump in the NICU and the
nurses can give you advise.
Through all of this, remember that breastfeeding is the best thing you can do to keep your baby healthy
and well-fed. Even if food is in short supply, your body will give the
baby the nutrients it needs. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t pump
right away, if you don’t produce much or if you’re just too tired. Be persistent and you will get it eventually.
Alicia Hunt writes Green Lifestyle Changes with
her husband Jonathan. Their twins are now healthy 8 year-olds and have
a younger brother. Alicia works for a municipality, focusing on energy
and environmental issues. The Hunts writing focus’ on how a green
living impacts the world. Their biggest concerns are climate change and
raising healthy children.
A couple of years ago, early one morning, I received a text advising:
“resadents to stay indoors because of a nearby insadent”.
was shocked by the spelling, as much as the message. Surely, I thought,
if it was a real message then the spelling would be correct.
Spelling matters. In a text message from a friend teeing up a night
out “c u at 8” is fine - but in an emergency warning text from a
government agency, I expect the spelling to be standard. But why is it
that some people struggle with standard spelling?
Spelling remains the most relentlessly tested of all the literacy skills, but it is the least taught.
Sending a list of words home on Monday to be tested on Friday is not
teaching. Nor is getting children to write their spelling words out 10
times, even if they have to do it in rainbow colours.
Looking, covering, writing and checking does not teach spelling.
Looking for little words inside other words, and doing word searches are
just time fillers. And writing your “spelling” words in spirals or
backwards is just plain stupid.
And yet, this is a good summary of most of the current spelling programs in schools today.
So, what should spelling teaching look like?
Children should know the meanings of the words they spell, and as
logical as that sounds - ask a child in your life what this week’s
spelling words mean, and you might be surprised by their answers.
If spelling words are simply strings of letters to be learnt by heart
with no meaning attached and no investigation of how those words are
constructed, then we are simply assigning our children a task equivalent
to learning ten random seven-digit PINs each week.
That is not only very very hard, it’s pointless.
More than sounds
English is an alphabetic language; we use letters to write words. But
it is not a phonetic language: there is no simple match between sounds
We have 26 letters, but we have around 44 sounds (it’s not easy to be
precise as different accents produce different sounds) and several
hundred ways to write those sounds.
So, while sounds - or phonics - are important in learning to spell,
they are insufficient. When the only tool we give young children for
spelling is to “sound it out”, we are making a phonological promise to
them that English simply cannot keep.
How words make their meanings
Sounds are important in learning to spell, but just as important are
the morphemes in words. Morphemes are the meaningful parts of words. For
example, “jumped” has two morphemes - “jump” and “ed”. “Jump” is easily
recognised as meaningful, but “ed” is also meaningful because it tells
us that the jump happened in the past.
Young spellers who are relying on the phonological promise given to
them in their early years of schooling typically spell “jumped” as
When attempting to spell a word, the first question we should teach
children to ask is not “what sounds can I hear?” but “what does this
word mean?”. This gives important information, which helps enormously
with the spelling of the word.
In the example of “jumt” it brings us back to the base word “jump”;
where the sound of “p” can now be heard, and the past marker “ed” ,
rather than the sound “t” which we hear when we say the word.
Consider the author of the emergency text message at the beginning of
this article as they pondered which of the many plausible letters they
could use for the sound they could hear in “res - uh - dent”.
If they had asked themselves first, “What does this word mean?” the
answer would have been people who “reside”, and then they would have
heard the answer to their phonological dilemma.
Where words come from
English has a fascinating and constantly evolving history. Our words,
and their spellings, come from many languages. Often we have kept the
spellings from the original languages, while applying our own
As a result, only about 12% of words in English are spelt the way
they sound. But that doesn’t mean that spelling is inexplicable, and
therefore only learned by rote - it means that teaching spelling becomes
a fascinating exploration of the remarkable history of the language -
Some may think that etymology is the sole province of older and experienced learners, but it’s not.
Young children are incredibly responsive to stories about words, and
these understandings about words are key to building their spelling
skills, but also building their vocabulary.
Yet poor spellers and young spellers are rarely given these
additional tools to understand how words work and too often poor
spellers are relegated to simply doing more phonics work.
Teaching - not testing
The only people who benefit from spelling tests are those who do well
on them - and the benefit is to their self-esteem rather than their
spelling ability. They were already good spellers.
The people who don’t benefit from spelling tests are those who are
poor at spelling. They struggled with spelling before the test, and they
still struggle after the test. Testing is not teaching.
Parents and teachers should consider these questions as they reflect
on the ways in which spelling is approached in their school.
Are all children learning to love words from their very first years
at school? Are they being fascinated by stories about where words come
from and what those stories tell us about the spelling of those words?
Are they being excited by breaking the code, figuring how words are
making their meanings and thrilled to find that what they’ve learned
about one word helps them solve another word?
Put simply - is spelling your child’s favourite subject?
If the answer is no, then something needs to be done about the teaching.
Misty Adoniou is a Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and Teaching
English as a Second Language at the University of Canberra. She
occasionally presents workshops in schools on the teaching of spelling.
My 10-year-old son has increasing problems with seasonal allergies —
we brace ourselves as spring comes with its pollen because this kid
really reacts. Last year we kept him comfortable with over-the-counter
medications, local honey, regular elderflower tea, lavender oil in a
nebulizer/diffuser concoction as he sleeps, and a chest rub of lavender
and eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil. The remedies helped keep him
comfortable but he still needed a small dose of allergy medication,
With each year we have added some new tools to the
arsenal but it has felt impossible to stay in front of the problem,
As of April 8, he has had allergy medicine twice.
When he would normally be taking a small dose each evening he has only
had medicine on severe pollen days (and he played outside to boot on
those days, tempting fate apparently and unaware of the pollen count).
This season’s addition has been near-miraculous for him: nettle leaf.
a year later to report that he used medication three times last season
and this year, in a challenging year for allergies, he has remained
By “nettle leaf,” I do mean the stuff with the stinging hairs that leaves an itchy rash on your skin for a few days.
You can definitely buy nettle dried online but we have been consuming so much this season that we have harvested
it in great quantities locally. We have had it in soups and infusions
several times a week for the past two months. We gathered enough to save
three gallons packed of dried leaves and 28 quart-sized baggies of
blanched and frozen nettle for soup.
We have hauled nettle
infusions on trips for allergy relief and packed soup in my son’s lunch,
all for a kid who will eat nothing else green. He consumes nettle
because his relief is near-immediate. Last week an attack came on and
his eye began to look like he had a shiner. I tried to capture his agony
in a photo and the relief one hour later, after 1/2 cup (~ 4 oz) of
nettle soup. The pictures aren’t the greatest and his eye was not as bad
as it can get, but we caught the allergy attack in time, threw some
nettle at it, and Frederick went on with the rest of his day like a
Our two key tools are nettle soup and nettle
infusions, both cooked to neutralize the stinging property of the nettle
leaf. We have a standard nettle soup recipe (here) but it can be seasoned in many ways for variety. We do use fresh or
frozen nettle but my mom promises to develop a soup recipe using dried
nettle that you can purchase online. In the meantime, experiment with
dried nettle in soups — just rehydrate it in your cooking process.
also make strong infusions with nettle stems and leaves that are left
over from our nettle foraging and processing but you can use fresh or
dry nettle. Place it in a pot with boiling water, turn off the heat,
cover and let it sit overnight or for up to 24 hours. Strain out the
liquid — that liquid is your infusion. We make a very strong infusion
because of the quantity of nettle we have, so strong that we add citrus
juice and a sweetener to cover the grassy taste. Experiment with what
works for you in terms of flavor and concentration. A cup of soup or
infusion brings near-immediate relief to my son but each cup we make may
be stronger than what you end up cooking up in your own kitchen. You
may need to experiment a bit to find what works best for you.
rest of the household gets a nice energy boost from nettle as well.
It’s really a no-lose situation and is now a key part of our spring time
Buy nettle online: For the quantity of nettle you will want to experiment with, we recommend buying it in bulk.
How could anything this healthy be so totally delicious? Nettle soup
has a growing fan base across the country and for good reason. Nettle leaf
is delicately flavored and cooks to a smooth silky texture. The prickly
little needles are completely gone. No other vegetable in our
experience provides the texture that nettle does. And around here the
flavor is just a great bonus: my grandson Frederick who boycotts all
“green” food will eat nettle soup because he sees a direct connection
between eating the soup and fighting his seasonal allergies.
a flavorful rich chicken bone broth to complement the nettle and you
have a luscious soup. With just a bit of seasoning, you could stop there
or you could go for a richer soup experience by adding heavy cream.
Cream and green make a perfect marriage. The cream mellows the green and
brings out a bit of sweetness.
If you are going to enjoy this
soup, you will probably have to collect your own nettle. It’s rare to
ever find nettle for sale, even in the farmers’ markets.
Here are a few tips for foraging:
Look in damp places. Nettle is a big drinker.
Wear leather gloves and bring clippers. Have little, if any, direct contact with the nettles.
If you get stung, look for some lamb’s quarters to crush into a poultice. Apply the poultice to your stinging places.
When possible, collect nettle that has not yet bloomed. It is milder than the blooming nettle.
the tops of the plant. Do not pull it. The plant will continue to grow
and provide a number of harvests, depending on your climate.
If you happen on the mother lode of a nettle stand, plan to freeze nettle leaves for soups through the year.
recipe that follows is a starting point — change it to suit your own
tastes. You may like more or less greens. We have made soup so dense
with greens that the greens were the thickening as well as the flavor.
That’s a lot of green!
It is also a lot of nutrition. Eat a
green soup like this for a few days in a row and you will experience a
fine boost in energy and sense of well-being.
Are you persuaded? Here’s how to do it.
Nettle Soup Ingredients
1 quart rich chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons oil of choice (chicken fat is tasty in this soup)
4 cups nettle leaves, well washed
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
For Cream Soup (optional)
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons thickener of choice, like tapioca flour
Nettle Soup Steps
Heat the broth to a simmer in a large soup pot.
While the broth is heating, saute the onion and garlic in the oil using a medium skillet.
When the broth comes to a simmer, add the sauteed vegetables and the nettle leaves.
Gently stir the soup for about two minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the soup to rest for 10 minutes before serving it.
Taste for salt and pepper. Make necessary adjustments.
If you want a cream soup, mix the thickener with the cream and beat it with a whisk to break down any lumps.
Bring the soup back to a simmer and slowly stir in the thickening mixture. If the soup is too thick, add more broth or water.
This soup freezes well if not a cream version. The texture of cream can get weird when frozen.
I am the mother of two small boys, with a third due almost any day now.
Logistically speaking this makes me a true "Boy Mom," although I would
hardly claim that I am an expert on mothering boys. I just don't know
I did, however, earn my Boy Mom street cred early
on by mastering the art of taming the teeny peenie. Things every Boy Mom
must know, like which way to point it so they don't consistently pee
themselves out of every diaper, and the truth that when it comes down to
it, those things are bendy.
A few more truths about mothering boys that I've learned: Truth#1:
Mothering boys can be summed up in two words. The same two words that
conveniently serve as the Boy Scouts of America motto: Be Prepared. "For
what?" you might ask. And the answer is anything. Be prepared
for anything. My boys have quickly forced me outside of my personal
comfort zone. Each day they challenge me to be louder, to get dirtier,
and to find adventure in the mundane. Truth#2:Everything is an adventure. We do not walk anywhere, we run. My boys are in a
constant state of motion. Even when they are sitting, feet are tapping,
legs are swinging. Truth #3:
There are two volume settings: loud and louder. At our house, when it
becomes suddenly quiet, panic sets in, and I fear for what I may stumble
upon when I seek out the source of the silence. Truth#4:
Everything, even eating, becomes an extreme sport. The end result being
every meal is a contest to see who can finish the fastest while
simultaneously making the largest mess. Truth #5:
Mothering boys means that bottoms are not for sitting. They are for
scratching, tooting, and drumming upon. Likewise, couches are for
climbing, end tables and chairs are for fort-making, and blankets are
meant to be used as capes. Sticks are swords or fishing poles long
before they are just merely discarded pieces of trees. Truth #6:
Everything, and I mean everything, makes some sort of deep throaty
growling noise. Cars, ninjas, bears, and sleeping boys alike. Truth#7:
Staying clean is overrated. Like moths to a flame boys will seek out
dirt and roll in it, the wetter the better. The bigger the puddles, the
higher they will jump, regardless of whether or not they are wearing
appropriate footwear. Truth #8: Fashion rules do
not apply to boys. In fact, the "mixed prints trend" that seems to be
all the rage this year? It could have easily been started by my toddler
son. Truth #9: Mothering boys means road trip bathroom breaks just got a whole lot easier. Well, for 75% of the family, that is. Truth#10: Farts are funny. Like really, really
funny. This I did not know, prior to having boys. Much like I did not
know how much it hurts to step on Lego pieces, Matchbox cars, and those
godforsaken wooden railroad pieces. Truth#11:
Mothering boys is equal parts humbling and puzzling. I've quickly
learned to decipher which types of injuries require a trip to Urgent
Care and which ones can easily be mended with a little liquid band-aid, a
deep breath and a chocolate chip cookie. Truth #12:
I've also learned that nothing is sacred, and they will be the first to
announce it. And #13, the biggest truth of all: Mothering boys is not for the faint of heart, but it's also so much more than just "snails and puppy dog tails."
know with each day that passes, my boys and I are growing more and more
different. Soon we'll be separated by different languages entirely,
different interests, and different emotions. A day will come when
they'll ask me about transmissions, transistor radios, soccer penalties,
and lacrosse teams, and sadly, I won't have any answers. I know there
will come a day, all too soon, when they won't eagerly divulge the
events of their days away from me.
That's the hardest truth about
this mothering of boys: even though right now they are still barely 4
and 2 years old, a day will come when I am no longer the love of their
lives, the one they run to with made up stories or the hand they reach
for while outside for a walk.
Mothering boys means more than just
mothering a mess of dirt, sticks, growling noises and farts. It means
savoring the moments in which I am their first love, the mender of
broken hearts and skinned knees, and the one who tucks them in at night,
kissing their tiny foreheads and memorizing the rise and fall of their
It means I am graced with the privilege of raising future
gentlemen and husbands of society, one table fort, one funny fart noise
and one super hero at the dinner table at a time.
It's the truth: Mothering boys is not for the faint of heart.
This story was first posted on What to Expect blog by Ashley Paige.