Archive for Advice

The #1 Thing You Can Do to Keep Your Kids Safe

car seat safety

We all want to keep our kids safe.

I spend an irrational amount of time researching safe sunscreens, choosing stainless steel or glass containers for their food, and selecting organic foods whenever possible.

The most important and completely rational safety measure I take for my kids by far, however, is buying, installing, and correctly using the right child safety car seat.

Did you know that motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for children age 1 to 13 in the USA? And that consistent use of the correct child safety seat in the car could cut fatalities by about half?

Are you sure that your child is in the correct seat? Sure enough to be his life on it?

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Fathers: If you are worried about breastfeeding… keep it to yourselves.

I have an app from a popular maternity service on my phone…primarily because the kids want to know what fruit is of a comparable size to their unborn brother and because people always ask me how far along I am and being on my fourth, I just can’t remember. I save my brain cells for remember things like when to pick the three kids up from activities, their birthdays, names…okay, so I have been known to call the boys by each others’ names. But I digress…

The app also issues a newsletter. Half the time I don’t open it but the subject line, “Breastfeeding Versus Bottle Feeding,” caught my attention. The “article” contained this little gem: Read more

Do You Tip Camp Counselors?

Tipping Counselors

A question about tipping counselors created quite a stir on my personal Facebook page.

Tips and teacher gifts always seem to be a subject of great confusion for parents. I know some parents who tip everyone (counselors, private after-school teachers/coaches, bus drivers) and give a big teacher gift and others who do none and others who fall somewhere in between.

I lean towards tipping, especially teenagers who are working with my kids, because I was a young counselor once. I never expected a tip, nor would I ever treat a child differently based on this, but it sure was a nice way for a parent to say thank you.

The reason I was even asking was because my kids had only attended 6 days at that camp. If they had been there for 4 weeks, it would not have even been a question for me.

And then several of my friends, a few with experience as counselors themselves, and the former camp director for whom I worked as a teen chimed in and the conversation got quite heated! Read more

Compliments instead of Insults (Parenting Tip)

I stumbled upon a new technique to use when my older two kids fight. I was somewhat inspired by this hilarious photo:

Our Get Along Shirt

My first thought was, “at least I will be laughing so hard that I won’t yell.” My second thought was, “that will never work with my kids…they’ll just keep fighting like a giant shirt cage match until they tear the thing apart.”

Musing on the idea of enforcing physical closeness on fighting kids, I realized that the issue is more emotional than physical. Usually there is a barrage of misunderstandings and insults, then the yelling, before anything escalates to a physical conflict.

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Done Trying to be a Perfect Mom


My husband is in the military, currently the National Guard. He’s gone one weekend a month, two weeks a year (at least in theory… because sometimes he’s gone a lot more and he occasionally travels for his full time job). He was recently two weeks and I swear he took half my brain with him.

It has been busy, crazy busy. In addition to finishing up one of the biggest projects I have ever worked on, an art history textbook for a program in California, we have had all of the end-of-the-year carnivals, field days, parties, preschool graduations, piano recitals, and gymnastics expos.




Oh, and we also had our Daisy troop bridging to Brownies at my house. This was supposed to happen on my deck but it was the one rainy day all month. So, we set-up in the basement.

Did I mention I am also over 5 months pregnant with baby #4?


Maybe it was because I was feeling like such a super mom after shuttling all the kids to all their various events, generally staying on top of the housework without my husband there, and throwing a magical Brownie Bridging that I overreached.

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How to Breastfeed (Or Just Look Like You Know What You Are Doing)

Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers!

As a mama who has had one breastfeeding champ who instantly stepped up to the bar for her first drink of milk and another who took his time learning to latch, here are my tips about “How to Breastfeed.”

1. Nothing Beats a Live Demonstration

Breastfeeding, like much of parenting, is one of those skills you mostly pick up on the job. It never hurts to prepare a little, though, and get comfortable with the idea.

Most hospitals offer classes where you can pepper the lactation consultant with whatever questions pop into your head.

And, of course, KellyMom is a treasure trove of information for first timers and old pros, alike.

I find that breastfeeding is something that is easiest to understand when you actually see it done. In fact, I’m convinced that one of the reasons we struggle with breastfeeding so much as a culture is because it has become rare and hidden. Fortunately, you can easily find breastfeeding tips on video on YouTube.

2. Relax
When my son was born, we were separated for a few hours after his birth as I needed some surgery following the delivery. When he came to me, he was sleepy and the doctors were concerned about his blood sugar because of his weight (over 10 lbs).

I could not understand why what had been so simple with my daughter was so hard with my son. And the nurses who were pressuring me and insisting a baby that large needed formula if he didn’t breastfeed RIGHT NOW were not helping matters much.

He would fuss, I’d try to feed, he’d cry, I’d get stressed, he’d pick up on that. The harder you try, sometimes, the harder it becomes.

As difficult as it can be, take a deep breath and relax.

With all the articles about the benefits of breastfeeding, it can be easy to become goal oriented about it. Remember, though, that the point is not to force feed your baby, but to establish a beautiful bond that will grow with your relationship.

3. Get Back to Basics

As part of relaxing, pare down. Send everyone away (unless they make you feel relaxed), turn off the lights, get close and cuddle skin to skin with your baby, do whatever makes you feel most relaxed.

Offer the opportunity to breastfeed but do not push it.

As soon as you can, learn to breastfeed lying down–you’ll get a lot more rest if you do.

4. Be Flexible

I’m guessing many lactation consultants will disagree with this, but if you are having trouble with getting started, my personal opinion is to just let your baby latch however works for the two of you. There is a lot of emphasis on correct technique, which I do believe is important for a successful breastfeeding relationship, but sometimes it is just good to start nursing so both you and your baby know you can do it. You can always fix the positioning and latch later.

5. Reach Out

One of the many remarkable things about becoming a mother is that you gain a new understanding of the importance of community. I encourage you to reach out to other mothers even while you are pregnant. If you find you are having difficulty breastfeeding, I strongly recommend asking for help from someone who has experience coaching new moms with breastfeeding.

With my first, I was desperate to learn to feed her in a sling so I could continue whatever I was doing if she got hungry while we were out. Our hospital offered the services of a free lactation consultant and she helped me figure out this neat and convenient technique. If you do not have access to a lactation consultant, La Leche League is a great resource–you’ll find experts and experienced mamas and other new mothers just like you.

To all the mamas out there, I wish you the best as you begin your beautiful relationship with your child. I hope that breastfeeding becomes a joyful experience that helps you build that bond.

I’m writing this post for the Carnival of Breastfeeding.

Don’t miss these posts from other bloggers (updated throughout the day):

Photo Credit: The Blessed Virgin Breastfeeding

Attachment Parenting International (API) Announces Their New Website

I’m pretty excited about this announcement. I chose to follow the philosophy of attachment parenting before I even knew what it was or met my child. Promoting healthy attachment with your child seems to be the most normal way to parent. Once my child was born and her heart defect discovered, I honestly believe that this approach helped me keep my sanity (or what I had of it to begin with) and save her life. I’m hoping that the new API website, forums, and classes, will help all parents find their own best way of raising their children and clear up some of the misconceptions about Attachment Parenting**.

If you are interested in talking more about Attachment Parenting with me. I have started posting each of the eight principles of attachment parenting, beginning with preparation for pregnancy, birth, and parenting. So far no one has bitten (on the blog at least, we’re having a great discussion at Maya’s Mom)…but I do hope you’ll drop on my and share your thoughts.

Attachment Parenting International (API), a non-profit organization that promotes parenting practices that create strong, healthy emotional bonds between children and their parents, has several exciting changes they would like to announce, including:
  • A newly redesigned web site and new logo at Attachment;
  • Attachment parenting worldwide support forums;
  • Parent Education Program – a comprehensive series of classes for every stage and age of child development from infancy through adulthood;
  • A new book based on API’s Eight Principles of Attachment Parenting by API co-founders Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson which is expected to be available this summer;
  • A series of podcasts, webinars, chats, and forums with API Advisory Board members and other supporters of AP. Future events are scheduled with Dr. Bob Sears, Dr. James McKenna, and Kathleen Kendall Tacket. Check out the events page for more information.

These are just a few of many exciting things going on at API. I hope you’ll stop by and check it out for yourself.

** I was getting wordy, so I’ll add this down here. Common Misconceptions I’ve Encountered About Attachment Parenting:

MYTH: If you don’t do everything an expert says, you aren’t following attachment parenting.

REALITY: AP is a philosophy of parenting, not a plan that must be followed step by step. There are many practices that are common among AP parents, and fit the AP philosophy better than other practices, but there is no litmus test. A lot of parents seem tired of so-called experts telling them what to do. And they think AP is just another example. The truth is that there is no “leader” of AP. It is a heterogeneous movement, not an orthodox one. While Dr. Sears’s books can seem a bit overwhelming, I’ll admit, if you are exhausted, even he is clear that each family must find its own balance.

MYTH: AP will make your child needy, entitled, and overdependent.

REALITY: Research suggests otherwise. By forming a strong bond of trust, your child will feel freer to explore. Your child is more likely to follow your lead, in terms of behavior. The idea is that a lot of “acting out” is done because a child’s basic needs aren’t being met–once the child trusts those needs will be met, he or she is less likely to “misbehave.” This one gets my goat, a bit, because I find it insulting when, during a theoretical debate, someone counters that “all the AP children they know are brats.” Anecdotes don’t really hold up as solid arguments, the parents and children aren’t there to defend themselves, and who knows what they are really doing as parents? Attachment Parenting isn’t giving your child everything he or she wants…it is taking the journey together.

MYTH: If you start a pattern of attachment now, you’ll have to continue (breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, etc.) forever.

REALITY: The pattern you are creating is one of trust. It is the expectation that you will help your child fulfill his or her needs. Obviously the form this takes will change over time…initially your child is all need and parental involvement is necessary to fulfill those needs. Gradually, with your help, your child will distinguish between needs and wants. Eventually, the child will be able to meet many of his or her own needs (with age-appropriate assistance) and learn to wait or do without certain wants. For most of human existence, people parented this way and still produced healthy, functioning adults. I promise, you will not have a breastfeeding, co-sleeping 20 year old, who needs to worn in a sling.

Book Giveaway: Get in Shape and Talk to Your Teen

Dancing with the StarsI haven’t been blogging for a while and I promise you’ll hear more about why in the next week or two.

In the meantime, it is that time of year again, the Bloggy Giveaways (click for even more contests)! I have two new books (these are clean copies I did not read) to give away.

The first is Dancing with the Stars: Jive, Samba, and Tango Your Way into the Best Shape of Your Life. If you are wondering how to get in shape while enjoying hot dances, this book will give you the moves.

The Teen WhispererPlus, I have The Teen Whisperer: How to Break Through the Silence and Secrecy of Teenage Life. Teenagers can be incredibly difficult to understand and help. This book brings insight from a successful, but unorthodox therapist who works with the most troubled teens. If you or know someone who needs help with communicating with a teen, you’ll find this book to be a great resource.

To win: Just leave me a comment, telling me (briefly) why you would be interested in winning these books, by February 1, 8PM EST. I’ll choose one winner at random for both books. Remember to leave an e-mail or URL where I can reach you if you win. I will ship to any US (including US military addresses that count as US shipping) or Canadian address. Good luck and enjoy!

I Kept My Big Mouth Shut…

As a former teacher, I have a tendency to lecture inform share my knowledge with others, particularly in museums and in the globally-influenced decor aisle of Target.

But I really, really try to keep my yap quiet when it comes to casual strangers and their parenting. Almost every day someone stops me and asks me about my sling or diaper bag or something else and I’m happy to share. But if I am not asked for my advice, I don’t go around shoving it in people’s faces.

There’s that saying about opinions being like a certain part of the anatomy–just because everyone has one, doesn’t mean we need to hear yours.

Of course, if I saw a child locked alone in a car or a parent beating a child, I would call the authorities, but if it is merely a matter of parenting style, I do remain silent.

Parenting becomes so wrapped up in our identities, particularly for those who are the primary caretakers. Certainly no new parent who hasn’t asked needs to be bombarded with my opinions on breastfeeding, plastic, or shopping cart covers.

There are times, though, when a parent, seems to be unknowingly putting her child at risk and I don’t know where to draw the line.

The other day, I was walking along, with Baby Diva in one of our many slings. Another mother was wearing her baby in a Baby Bjorn and we locked eyes and shared a smile, an unspoken babywearers’ bond.

And then I caught my breath and almost opened my mouth.

No, I wasn’t going to tell her that hard carriers may hinder baby’s proper hip placement–that falls under the smile, nod, didn’t ask, so don’t tell category.

What I saw was a very young infant, adorably passed out, but with his head thrown almost all the way back. The carrier was so loose that if baby was any larger, mom would certainly be unable to walk. I was concerned that baby could fall out and even more concerned that he couldn’t breathe properly in that position.

So, should I have said something? Or was it none of my business? Where do you draw the line?

Unwanted Gifts: What Do YOU Do?

This may be a touchy subject, but I think it is especially relevant now with all these toy recalls.

How do you handle gifts that you don’t want?

There’s a story going around that Christina Aguilera (generally known for diva behavior) has thrown out some toys from her husband’s family.

According to the story, it is because they were from Babies R Us and not from the chic boutiques she believes better fit her celeb status.

We don’t know if the story is even true, or if that is in fact the reason she disposed of the gifts.

Aside from such snobbery, though, what if the gifts you receive just do not reflect your values or, worse, you are concerned about whether or not the toys are safe?

Obviously no one should ever feel obligated to give a gift…and it is truly the thought that counts. I always appreciate that someone thought of me and my family, regardless of what the actual gift is–a card is always lovely, too! But, whether you are pledging to toss everything from China after the lead paint scares, ban all Bratz paraphernalia, or donate items with licensed characters, is there any polite way to communicate this to friends and family who are likely to give gifts to your kiddos?

I have a friend who recently sent out an informational e-mail about stores and brands that are made in the USA. And on Mamanista I’ve been creating a list of stores that take special care in ensuring the safety of their toys and informing their customers about where the toys were made. Right now I have those stores starred on our shop page and soon I’ll be posting some of my favorite picks. You could also point people to some of the lists at Crunchy Domestic Goddess or the great independent and sometimes handmade finds at Cool Mom Picks.

But some people still either won’t get the hint or won’t care about your concerns. So, what do you do then?

Are you a terrible person if you write a nice thank you note and then return store bought gifts? Better to put them in a box and take them out when the gift giver visits and then donate when enough time has passed? Or just keep them around, even if you are not comfortable with the gift?

Is there a right way to go about this?

I would love to hear others’ thoughts on this topic!