10 Ways To Stay Healthy When Your Kids Are Sick

10 Ways To Stay Healthy When Your Kids Are Sick

If it seems that your kid is sick all the time, it’s not your imagination. Before kids even turn 2, it’s common for them to get 8 to 10 colds a year. When your kids are sick, there’s no doubt you’re in fierce-mom mode, thinking about every possible thing you can do to help them get better quicker.

Between elderberry syrup, chicken soup, and plenty of rest and snuggle time, you’re determined to nurse them back to health ASAP.

I don’t know about you, but at the first sign of a sniffle, sneeze or sore throat, all I can think about is, great, now I’m going to get sick!

Because let’s face it, moms don’t get sick days.

Still, kids love to share their germs with us.

They sneeze and cough IN our faces, wipe their snotty noses on us—or worse— and give us the fun job of cleaning it all up.

It’s one of the reasons we get sick more often than single folk.

In fact, according to an August 2015 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, people who don’t have kids in their homes are infected with colds, the flu and other respiratory illnesses on average 3 to 4 weeks during the year, while those with one child are sick 18 weeks out of the year!

Last fall, when my kids both came down with the flu (yes, they had their flu shots), and I was sleep-deprived, run down and stressed out, I miraculously avoided it.

Perhaps my flu shot was effective, or I simply got lucky, but there were some things I did which I believe made all the difference. Here are 10.

1. WASH YOUR HANDS—AND GET YOUR KIDS TO DO THE SAME

It’s a total no-brainer: wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs, but when your kids are sick, it’s even more important.

When it comes to encouraging your kids to wash their hands, they usually don’t wash often enough or wash the right way—which is one of the reasons they got sick in the first place.

If you kids are vomiting or have diarrhea, be sure to wash your hands before and after caring for them. Also wash your hands after touching anything they touched including bathroom and kitchen surfaces, used tissues, plates and utensils, their thermometer, and measuring cups or syringes for administering medicine.

Teach your kids how to wash their hands with warm water and soap, wash all surfaces of their hands including their fingernails and in between their fingers, and wash while singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

2. PICK PROTEIN

Consuming protein-rich foods at every meal and snack satisfies your hunger, keeps you feeling fuller longer, and balances your blood sugar, but it can also help you stay healthy when your kids are sick.

Protein is one of three macronutrients (fat and carbohydrates are the other two), and are found in every cell in the body.

Protein plays a role in repairing cells and making new ones and protects the body from viruses and bacteria.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is .08 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. To figure out how much protein you need each day, multiple your body weight by .36.

Be sure to eat a protein-packed breakfast and include protein throughout the day. Eggs, meat, fish, dairy, tofu, tempeh, and nuts and seeds are all good choices.

3. KEEP EVERYTHING SEPARATE

When my daughters had the flu, I did my best to keep them quarantined. One slept in her bed, while the other one was in the guest room. When they were resting on the couch, they brought their own pillows and blankets.

I also made sure they didn’t share the same toothpaste and we all didn’t share the same hand towels.

4. TAKE PROBIOTICS AND CONSUME PROBIOTIC-RICH FOODS

In recent years, there’s been a ton of research around gut health and the health benefits of probiotics.

A healthy gut starts with the microbiome, which is a vast collection of 100 trillion microbes or microorganisms that actually live in and on the body, but most are found in the gastrointestinal tract.

Since the gut makes up 70 percent of the immune system, making sure it has a diverse amount of healthy bacteria is key.

Consider taking probiotics but also include probiotic-rich foods in your diet such as:

  • Coconut milk yogurt
  • Fermented pickles
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Kefir
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Yogurt
  • Miso
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sourdough bread
  • Tempeh

Eating a healthy diet made up of mostly whole foods also supports healthy gut bacteria.

Fruits and vegetables also provide prebiotics, which are dietary fibers that feed the healthy bacteria in the gut allowing them to grow and flourish.

Related: 14 Prebiotic Foods For Kids

Also, do your best to avoid processed foods and high amounts of sugar which can alter gut bacteria.

5. DRINK PLENTY OF WATER

Staying hydrated is important for your overall health but it also helps to regulate your temperature, lubricate and cushion your joints, protect the spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and helps to get rid of waste.

It makes sense therefore, that staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water every day as a general healthy habit can keep you healthy when your kids are sick.

6. GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D

Although I wasn’t deficient, my naturopath explained my levels weren’t optimal either, so for over a year, I’ve been taking between 3,000 and 4,000 IUs of Vitamin D everyday.

I think taking Vitamin D played a role in keeping me healthy when my kids had the flu.

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and optimal levels are important for overall health, to lower inflammation, and support healthy bones and teeth, and the brain, nervous and immune systems.

A February 2017 meta-analysis in the journal BMJ found taking vitamin D supplements can prevent acute respiratory infections including colds and the flu.

Foods high in vitamin D include:

  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Sardines
  • Herring
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Beef liver
  • Fortified foods (milk, orange juice and cereal)

I recommend you ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels first and then find out how much you should take. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine also has a guide here.

 

 

7. GET AS MUCH SLEEP AS POSSIBLE

Getting enough shut-eye can be tough when your kids are sick, especially if they’re up at night.

Yet prioritizing sleep as much as possible when they’re not sick can go a long way in boosting your immune system.

According to a 2015 study in the journal Sleep, people who were exposed to a live common cold virus and clocked about 5 or 6 hours a night of sleep were four times more likely to develop a cold than people who slept at least 7 hours each night.

 

 

8. EAT VITAMIN C RICH FOODS

Vitamin C has been touted as a remedy for preventing and treating the common cold, but the jury is still out on its efficacy.

According to a 2013 Cochrane Review, extremely active people such as marathon runners and skiers who took 200 mg of vitamin C per day reduced their risk for the common cold by 50 percent. The same finding however, was not true in the general population.

The good news however, is that taking the same dose reduced the severity of colds by 8%.

Still, experts say there’s not enough evidence to recommend taking vitamin C supplements but we should eat vitamin C rich foods everyday.

Apples are rich in vitamin-C and quercetin, an antioxidant that’s known for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.

Other vitamin C-rich foods include:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Clementines
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Hot green chili peppers
  • Kale
  • Kiwifruit
  • Mandarines
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Papaya
  • Peppers: sweet red, yellow and green
  • Pineapple
  • Potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

 

 

 

9. DISINFECT SURFACES

While I’m not keen on using bleach, disinfectants and harsh chemicals in my home, it’s a different story when my kids are sick.

To prevent the spread of germs, do your best to wipe down surfaces your kids touch such as the toilet bowl flusher, sink and faucet, doorknobs, light switches and remote controls.

If there’s vomit or diarrhea, put gloves on too. The CDC also recommends using disinfectants that have an EPA registration number.

 

 

 

10. EXERCISE—20 MINUTES IS ENOUGH!

If your kid is home sick, there’s no way you’ll be getting to the gym.

Yet on other days, or when they’re healthy enough to be in daycare and school, exercise can help boost your immune system. Even better—a quick workout will do.

In fact, according to a March 2017 study in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, one, 20-minute session of moderate exercise can stimulate the immune system and have anti-inflammatory effects.

So go for a brisk walk, jog on the treadmill or put on a fun dance video and get moving!

What do you to stay healthy when your kids are sick? Let me know in the comments!

10 Most Popular Health Apps for Busy Moms

10 Most Popular Health Apps for Busy Moms

On January 1, everyone sets out with the best intentions to eat right, hit the gym and practice self-care. Even if you made realistic New Year’s resolutions, life happens. Work gets hectic, kids get sick, and your to-do list gets longer every day. Although knowing the “why” for your goals can help you stay the course, there are some of the most popular health apps that can help you create healthy habits, find time in your schedule to make your health a priority, and give you the motivation to stay the course.

Whether you’re looking to make healthier food choices, carve out time to work out, or take control of your health, these most popular health apps are worth a try.

1. LOSE IT!

I find that when I log my meals in the Lose It! app, I’m accountable and it’s easier for me to stay on track. The free version allows you to track your calories and exercise and is good enough to set you on a good path. The premium version however, gives you additional features like macronutrient goal setting and tracking, nutrition insight reporting, meal planning, water tracking and more. Free; Premium $3.33 a month.

2. LES MILLS

I’m kind of obsessed with Les Mills, and their BODYCOMBAT, BODYPUMP and CXWORX programs, in particular. The programs are fast paced, efficient, intense, and so much fun.

If you’re not one for the gym or don’t live near a gym that offers their programs, you can access all of their amazing programs at home with Les Mills On Demand. With 800 workouts and 13 programs including strength, cardio, HIIT, dance, flexibility, and more, and plenty of flexible options that work with your schedule, you can find something that works for you. $9.92 per month and up.

3. FOODUCATE

Reading food labels, comparing brands, and trying to make healthy choices amidst all the food marketing can make your head spin. Enter the Fooducate app.

Simply scan the food’s barcode to get a nutrition grade, learn about the product’s pros and cons, and get insights about things like added sugars, trans fat, food dyes, and GMO’s. You can also track your food, macros, sleep, mood and hunger levels, get diet tips and recipes, and access to their community. The app is free but the premium version gives you access to special diets and other features.

4. BEACHBODY ON DEMAND

With 800 workouts and programs like P90X®, INSANITY®, and 21 Day Fix® Beachbody on Demand has plenty to choose from.

Their workouts are for all fitness levels and can be streamed on any device. When you sign up, you also get nutrition guides, workout calendars, progress trackers, customizable meal plans, recipes, support and accountability from a free coach, expert fitness and nutrition advice, access to a member community, and exclusive content like Fixate®, their healthy and delicious cooking show. $39/quarter; $59 semi-annually; $99 annually. TeamBeachBody.com.

5. HEADSPACE

As a mom with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, meditation is something I know I should do more of because it helps me feel calm and more centered. 

When I do make time for it, I use the Headspace app and my kids love it too! The narrator’s voice is easy on the ears and they make it easy to follow. I also like how they have themed, guided meditation sessions for stress, anxiety, sleep, and focus. While the free version has plenty and is a good introduction to meditation, Headspace Plus offers new meditations, sleep sounds and bedtime exercises. Free—$12.99 a month.

6. KINDARA

I’ve used the Kindara app for years to track my periods and it’s one of the best if you’re TTC, avoiding pregnancy naturally, or trying to understand what your hormones and body are doing. The app allows you to chart all of your data, capture your body’s signals and get access to a supportive community. The premium version gives you access to additional features like unlimited custom data and direct messaging to other users. Free; $4.99/month-$49.99/year.

7. LOVE SWEAT FITNESS

I wrote a story for FIRST for Women magazine about an amazing woman who conquered chronic, debilitating pain and lost 70 pounds after finding Love Sweat Fitness community, one of the most popular health apps. Love Sweat Fitness (LSF) has customized workout plans for all fitness levels, and allows you to track your food, water intake, measurements, workouts, mood and self-care habits. $8.25 per month and up.

8. CALM

A meditation, sleep and relaxation app, Calm is designed to help you deal with stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia. The app features a 10-minute meditation, “The Daily Calm,” 100 “Sleep Stories,” as well as sleep music, meditation lessons, nature sounds, and Calm Masterclasses. Free; Premium $69.99 a month and up.

9. EMBODY, BY EVERY MOTHER

After I had my first child and my abdominal muscles were weaker than ever, I realized I had diastasis recti, or a separation of the abdominal muscles and a condition that affects more than 50 percent of moms.

The good news is that diastasic recti can be prevented and repaired, but the right exercise program is key. I’ve interviewed personal trainer Leah Keller for several stories about prenatal and postpartum fitness and that’s why I recommend her program, EMbody, by Every Mother, the only fitness method proven to prevent and resolve diastasic recti.

Related: 7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

10. EWG’s HEALTHY LIVING APP

In addition to feeding my kids healthy food and encouraging healthy habits, I do my best to pay attention to the personal care products we use. Yet as a busy mom, I don’t have the time to research products and find the best ones. That’s where EWG’s Healthy Living app comes in. You can search their database of products or scan items when you’re shopping to get ratings so you can make a safe choice. Free.

10 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions You Can Totally Keep

10 Realistic New Year’s Resolutions You Can Totally Keep

I don’t know about you, but as we head into 2020, and a new decade, I’m really feeling the old adage, the days are long but the years are short. This year, my kids grew taller, met new milestones and learned something new. They matured, but still needed their mama. There were meltdowns and sibling fights, but also plenty of laughter and hugs. Above all else, I feel accomplished and proud and I hope you do too, whether it was potty training, sleep training or encouraging your child to try a new vegetable. So as you look towards to the new year with a renewed hope and optimism, a new perspective and a fresh start, chances are, you’re looking for realistic New Year’s resolutions that actually work for you and your family.

When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, more than 55 percent of people make them about eating healthy, healthy habits and exercise, according to a 2016 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Yet between fad diets, strict food rules and unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves—especially as moms— it’s no wonder 80 percent of people don’t follow through.

That’s why it’s important to make realistic New Year’s resolutions that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound) and more likely to stick. Here are 10.

1. EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS

One of the best things you can do for you and your family’s health is to swap some of your processed foods for whole foods at meals and snacks.

Fast food and processed, packaged foods are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar which are all linked to childhood obesity and other chronic health conditions.

Even if your kid is stick thin now, eating this way conditions his taste buds for this type of food and creates unhealthy habits that could continue throughout his lifetime.

Instead, do your best to have a diet made up mostly of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats which will give kids the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy.

2. COOK MORE 

Although it may not be one of the most popular tips, cooking more is actually one of the best realistic New Year’s resolutions.

You may not like to cook, think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth all the effort, but cooking more meals at home strengthens family bonds, gives kids real-life skills, helps with picky eating, and can save your kid’s life.

The good news is that cooking doesn’t have to take a lot of time, brainpower or effort. For help, check out my blog posts:

 

3. MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE

When it comes to realistic New Year’s resolutions, you might think there’s no way self-care will make it on the list.

The thing about self-care however, is that it doesn’t have to be a weekend getaway with friends or even an hour-long massage.

Instead, find ways to carve out five or ten minutes to take a bath, listen to a podcast, use a meditation app, or go for a brisk walk.

Related: 10 Tips for Self-Care All Moms Need

4. MOVE MORE

You already know all of the physical and mental benefits of exercise and although making it a priority may not seem like a realistic New Year’s resolution, it’s totally doable.

Sign up your kid for a new sport or dance class. Take a bike ride, go to the park, or take a walk after dinner around the neighborhood.

Raining or snowing? Have an indoor dance party or play Twister. Anything that encourages your kids to get up and moving, counts.

5. GO TO SLEEP 30 MINUTES EARLIER

Despite all of the benefits of a good night’s rest, most kids and adults don’t get enough shut-eye.

According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many kids don’t get enough sleep and some get less than their parents think they need.

Their 2018 poll showed much of the same: only 10 percent of adults prioritize their sleep over other aspects of daily living such as eating healthy and exercise, work and hobbies.

Lack of sleep can affect energy levels, mood and behavior, and performance at school and work.

Insufficient sleep can also lead to weight gain because the hormones that affect appetite can get all out of whack. Ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which tells our bodies to eat, ramps up while leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, slows down, which makes it more likely that you’ll overeat.

Although turning in an hour or more earlier may not be a reality, chances are, 30 minutes is doable.

It may require that you create new habits such as serving dinner earlier or shifting schedules a bit.

Also, power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bed time, use black-out shades and find ways to wind down before bed such as reading, meditation or prayer.

6. MAKE A GROCERY SHOPPING LIST

Although meal planning is one of the best ways to eat healthy and save money, it may be too time consuming—at least for now.

Instead, one of your realistic New Year’s resolutions can be to make a grocery shopping list every week. 

As you start to make your list, go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what you need to replenish so you don’t buy something you already have.

Also, think about the week ahead so you can plan accordingly. Perhaps you need to bring the team snack to soccer or maybe you need a fast meal on hand for a night when you know you’ll be getting home late—add it to the list.

Most of the foods on your shopping list should be those located in the perimeter of the store like fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry and dairy and eggs.

In the interior sections, you can find healthy foods like beans and legumes, canned salmon, sardines and tuna fish, whole grains like brown rice, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, but stay away from highly-processed foods and snacks.

7. ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS

In the spirit of 2020 optimism, focus on small, simple ways to encourage healthy habits instead of focusing too much on kids who are picky eaters, refuse to eat, or eat too much.

Need ideas? Read “50 Best Healthy Eating Habits for Kids.”

8. CUT DOWN ON THE DEVICES

Electronic devices are such a big part of our lives, but emerging research finds adverse health effects, especially when it comes to our kids.

According to a November 2019 study in JAMA Pediatrics, device use in preschool-age children can change the structures of the brain, and is associated with lower expressive language, processing speed, and emergent literacy skills.

Another recent study found kids who are first exposed to smartphones, tablets, TV and video games before 18 months of age, as well as multiple devices in the bedroom, is associated with sleep disruption and emotional and behavioral difficulties in preschool children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism, language delays and learning disorders.

When you consider that screen time also encourages sedentary behavior, can lead to weight gain, affects sleep, and can prevent play time, hands on exploration and face to face social interaction, there’s no doubt that curbing electronic use is a good idea.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommendations for screen time for kids, but it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight. Set a timer so your kids understand the expectations and then start to cut back 10 minutes at a time, or cut down on the number of days.

9. TRY SOMETHING NEW THIS YEAR

The key to making realistic New Year’s resolutions is to make sure they’re novel and fun.

For example, instead of purging every last bit of junk food from your pantry on January 2, which will most likely lead to resistance, try something new.

Pick out a new vegetable to cook, test out a new recipe, try a new cooking method, use a new appliance, or serve dinner in a new way such as buffet instead of family-style.

10. PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING

One of the best things you can do for and your family’s health is to practice mindfulness at meals.

Mindfulness can help everyone slow down, really taste their food, and savor every bite. When you’re present and using all of your senses to eat, you’re less likely to overeat and become an emotional eater, and more likely to enjoy each other.

There are several mindfulness techniques you can try but if you’re looking for a good place to start, I recommend Dr. Susan Albers, who has written several books on the subject, including her new one, “Hanger Management: Master Your Hunger and Improve Your Mood, Mind and Relationships.”

 

What are your realistic New Year’s resolutions? Let me know in the comments!

10 Meaningful Gifts for Moms  Clothes and jewelry are good 'ol standbys for the holidays but if you want something that will really surprise her, consider these meaningful gifts for moms.

10 Meaningful Gifts for Moms

Clothes and jewelry are good 'ol standbys for the holidays but if you want something that will really surprise her, consider these meaningful gifts for moms.

When it comes to holiday shopping, I think it’s safe to say most moms take the lead on finding the perfect presents for their kids, other family members, friends, teachers and other special people in our lives—despite what men may think.

In fact, according to a 2016 poll by CreditCards.com, 68 percent of women say they do all of the holiday shopping while only 30 percent of men agree.

Regardless of how you divvy up the responsibilities, you’re probably looking for a gift for a special mom in your life that she’ll treasure for years to come. Or maybe you’re hoping to give your partner some gift suggestions for you.  Although clothes and jewelry are easy standbys, there are a ton of meaningful gifts for moms that are a bit more special. Here are 10.

1. PERSONALIZED RECIPE PLATE

Whether it’s a favorite family recipe or special dessert that your mom makes, why not gift her with this Personalized Recipe Plate in her own handwriting? Simply send a PDF or photo of the recipe and it will be reproduced on a beautiful, decorative, keepsake plate. $66.00.

2. AMAZON HOME SERVICE DEEP CLEANING SESSION

Whether you have little ones or big kids, your house is never clean. And even if you have someone who cleans it, the deep cleaning always falls to the wayside.

With Amazon Home Service’s Deep Cleaning Session, you’ll get those hard to reach places like the oven range hood, blinds, window sills and light fixtures sparkling clean in no time. Starting at $84.99.

3. WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES BURLAP PRINT

When it comes to meaninful gifts for moms, it doesn’t get better than this. Not that you could ever forget, but this What a Difference a Day Makes Burlap Print is a beautiful display of your wedding date and everyone’s birthdays. $24.99 and up.

4. PURIST COLLECTIVE BOTTLE

As moms, we’re always on the go and having a bottle of water with us keeps us hydrated and energetic. Yet sometimes you also want a cup of coffee—or another drink of choice.

Enter the Purist Collective Bottle. Thanks to their innovative technology that transforms silicon dioxide into an unbreakable and flawless glass interior, these bottles easily go from coffee to water and Kombucha to wine with an easy rinse and no aftertaste. The bottles also keep a beverage hot for 12 hours and ice cold for 24 hours and they’re guaranteed leak-proof. The company also partners with community-based organizations to empower social and environmental change, so it’s a purchase you can feel good about. $40 and up. 

5. SPAFINDER GIFT CARD

Gift cards can seem so impersonal but when you’re a busy, stressed out mom, a day at the spa couldn’t be better. That’s why a SpaFinder gift card is one of the best meaningful gifts for moms. Choose from a mani-pedi, massage, haircut, blowdry, wellness retreat getaway, or something else, SpaFinder offers services at thousands of locations. $25-$500.

6. CLASSPASS GIFT CARD

Whether she’s already a gym rat or looking to get in shape in the New Year, a ClassPass gift card is one of the best meaningful gifts for moms. ClassPass is a monthly membership to more than 30,000 fitness studios worldwide where you can take advantage of everything from HIIT to Yoga, and get on-demand workouts when you want to work out from home. $9-$159/a month.

7. HOME CHEF

Trying to come up with easy, healthy dinner ideas your kids will actually eat can be tough. With Home Chef meal delivery service however, it’s easy.

You choose new chef-inspired recipes each week and they deliver fresh ingredients to your door. Each meal kit is perfectly measured so you can skip the grocery store, reduce waste, and go straight to cooking a delicious meal. Plans start at $9.90 a month. Get $80 off now.

8. BAREFOOT DREAMS COZYCHIC LITE ISLAND WRAP

My husband and I received a Barefoot Dreams blanket as a wedding present over 10 years ago and it’s still hands-down, the warmest (but lightweight) and coziest blanket I’ve ever owned.

This Barefoot Dreams CozyChic Lite Island Wrap combines all of their great features in a fashion-forward cardigan that will take you from sleep to school drop off and everything in between. $110.00.

9. ROYAL CRAFT WOOD LUXURY BATHTUB CADDY TRAY

All moms need time for self-care and this Royal Craft Wood Luxury Bathtub Caddy Tray is one of the most meaningful gifts for moms. Perfect for one or two people, the tray is waterproof and has room to hold a wine glass, book or tablet, phone, candle and much more. It also comes with a bonus soap holder. $42.99.

10. WINC

I’ve gifted the Winc wine subscription box to my wine-loving husband in the past and he loved it. Winc is a wine-of-the-month club that sends you personalized bottle recommendations that are expertly curated and delivered to your door. Even better—rate each bottle and they’ll refine your recommendations so you get the perfect glass every time. $60 and up.

10 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

10 Ways To Beat Holiday Stress

Between putting up decorations, sending out Christmas cards, shopping for the perfect gifts, baking cookies, attending school singalongs and holiday parties, traveling to visit family, hosting guests and money woes, ’tis the season for holiday stress.

I don’t know about you, but feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious aren’t what the holidays are about, despite what society tells us.

For me, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus and the holidays are meant for family.

While I know there are to-do’s that have to get done, like buying my kids’ gifts, there are other tasks that are actually negotiable, can be done a different way, can be handed off to someone else, or done away with entirely. And that my friends, is the key to beating holiday stress. 😀

But first, let’s take a look at how many of us feel stressed out this time of year…

HOLIDAY STRESS STATISTICS

It turns out holiday stress is a big issue.

According to a 2018 survey, 88 percent of people say they feel stressed when celebrating the holidays.

When it comes to our relationships, the average couple will have at least 7 arguments this holiday season, the same survey found.

Of course, money is also a big stressor. According to the 2019 Bankrate Holiday Gifting Survey, 6 out of 10 people say they feel pressure to overspend on presents, travel, social gatherings, and charitable donations.

And if you think you’re more stressed than your partner, you are (no surprise, right?).

According to a report by the American Psychological Association (APA), 44 percent of women (versus 31 percent of men) say they have more stress during the holiday season.

WHAT CAUSES HOLIDAY STRESS?

Holiday stress can be very individual but the most common sources include:

  • Shopping for gifts
  • Money concerns
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Preparing for house guests
  • Family dynamics
  • Conversations about politics, religion and money

Traveling to visit family is also another source of holiday stress.

A recent survey found that people who travel to see family during the holidays need a break from their extended families after about 4 hours. What’s more, while 95 percent say it’s important to spend time with them, 40 percent of those who will be staying with family admit that it’s stressful.

HOLIDAY STRESS AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH

No one wants to experience stress of course, but it can take a toll on your health.

Holiday stress can lead to fatigue, irritability, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety and depression.

Although cookies and desserts tempt us everywhere we turn this time of year, holiday stress can also make it tough to eat healthy and it can lead to emotional eating.

Stress can also prevent you from making healthy choices like getting to the gym and making time for self-care, and it can affect your relationship with your partner and your sex life.

When you’re stressed out, sleep can also be hard to come by. According to a recent survey by Mattress Advisor, 64 percent of people say they sleep less than 8 hours a day during the holidays. The quality of their sleep suffered too: on a scale of one to ten, 74 percent said they rate their holiday sleep quality as seven or lower.

HOW TO COPE WITH HOLIDAY STRESS

The good news is that you don’t have to let stress get the best of you this year. Here are 10 ways to cope.

1. Eat healthy when you’re not celebrating the holidays

Although this time of year can make it challenging to prepare healthy meals, grabbing fast food and take-out, and snacking on sugary treats will leave you feeling depleted, anxious and even more stressed out. 

Instead, keep your kitchen stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein, healthy fats like avocado and whole grains like quinoa.

Pre-portion smoothie ingredients, keep cut up fruits and veggies in clear containers in the refrigerator, and keep healthy snacks on hand like hummus, nuts and seeds and Greek yogurt.

2. Get the whole family moving

To help combat stress and manage everyone’s moods, carve out time most days of the week to do something active.

If you’re willing to venture out into the cold, go for a brisk walk with your kids or have a game of catch in the backyard.

If the cold isn’t your thing, have an indoor dance party or play a game of Twister.

3. Prioritize sleep

Irregular schedules and later-than-usual bedtimes can throw everyone in the family off schedule.

Without enough sleep, you and your kids will be more irritable and more likely to reach for food and make unhealthy food choices.

In fact, an August 2018 study in the Journal of Sleep Research found that kids who regularly fell asleep after 11pm were 2 to 3 times more likely to eat junk food at least 5 times a week.

Although it may not always be feasible to get you and your kids to bed on time every night, do your best to make a sleep a priority as much as possible.

Also, practice good sleep hygiene: put away the devices 1 to 2 hours before bed because the blue light they emit can make it hard to fall asleep. Also, keep bedrooms cool and wind down with a book, prayer or soothing music.

4. Take a break

To manage holiday stress, make sure you carve out time for intentional relaxation and take a break from the busyness of the season.

Take deep, diaphragmatic breaths, do progressive muscle relaxation, or use a meditation app like Calm or Headspace.

5. SAY “NO”

Although buying presents for your kids has to get done for example, there are so many other things that might seem like obligations but that you can actually say “no” to.

While I can aspire to make a variety of cookies for my kids’ bus drivers, teachers and administrators, and Sunday school teachers, I’ve decided instead to make only one or two types of quick and easy treats like coconut macaroons and Christmas bark.

It’s also a good idea to avoid over scheduling your kids with extras.

Do you really have to go see the Nutcracker? Is it imperative that you have holiday photos taken?

Probably not, so just say “no.”

6. OUTSOURCE YOUR LIST

As moms, we’re often expected to do it all, but that doesn’t mean we have to.

Of all the tasks on your list, there are those that:

  • You tell yourself you should do or you feel pressured to do
  • You’re capable of doing but don’t want to do
  • Actually bring you joy during the holiday season

While there are some tasks you may have to do yourself, there are those that you can delegate or outsource.

For example, a few years ago, I decided sending Christmas cards wasn’t worth all of my time and energy.

It was however, important to my husband, so he took it over.

Every year, he picks out the card and the photos, addresses them and sends them off. It may not be the design or photos I would have chosen, but letting it go means I won’t be so stressed out.

It can be hard to hand over certain tasks to our partners, but it is possible to find opportunities for them to help out.

Perhaps it’s wrapping gifts, going grocery shopping or making a Target run for stocking stuffers.

Accepting that done is better than perfect can be freeing.

If getting your spouse to help out isn’t going to happen, think about other people who can.

Depending on their ages, kids can seal and put stamps on cards or wrap presents for their grandparents, for example.

You could also outsource holiday tasks to a company like FancyHands.com, TaskRabbit.com or Thumbtack.com.

7. LET GO OF PERFECTION

There’s perhaps no other time of year that conjures up perfection in us like the holidays.

We’re inundated with messages about finding the perfect presents, putting up perfect, Pinterest-worthy holiday decorations, making Instagram-worthy cookies, having a perfect holiday and making perfect memories.

The truth is that all of our striving for perfection not only sets us up for disappointment because it’s not realistic, but studies show it can lead to anxiety and depression.

So this year, let go of perfection—whatever that looks like for you.

8. DO GOOD

The holiday season is a time of giving, whether of our time, money or both.

Although volunteering and making charitable donations are worthy causes and make us feel good, it’s easy to to overcommit and feel stretched thin, or surprised when the credit card bill come in.

It’s important to think about what’s realistic for your family.

So although you may want to head up the charity drive in your kid’s school, you may have to take on a smaller role like donating toys or baking brownies instead.

9. LISTEN TO MUSIC

When I’m feeling stressed out, I put on music, whether it’s Christian worship music, 80’s, or Top 40 because research shows, music eases anxiety.

According to a May 2018 meta-analysis in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, music is an effective way to reduce blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety and pain in people undergoing a biopsy.

10. REACH OUT

Connecting with other moms who get it can make all the difference in managing holiday stress.

Call or meet a friend for coffee, join a moms’ group like MOPS International, Mocha Moms and MOMS Club, or online communities like CircleOfMoms.com

If your stress level feels overwhelming and it’s affecting other areas of your life and your eating and sleeping habits for example, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you and there’s no shame in asking for help.

Ask your primary care provider for a referral to a psychologist, LCSW or counselor.

How do you manage holiday stress? Let me know in the comments!

10 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions

10 Common Breastfeeding Problems & Solutions

     You already know that “breast is best,” but just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn’t mean it always comes naturally. Whether you’re a first time mom or have more than one, there are several common breastfeeding problems you may encounter.

Not only is there a learning curve when you start breastfeeding, but other issues like low milk supply, breastfeeding pain and engorgement can crop up.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended infants are exclusively breastfed for 6 months and then continue breastfeeding alongside solids for up to a year.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although more than 83 percent of infants start to breastfeed at birth, only about 57 percent are still breastfeeding at 6 months.

Although any amount of breastfeeding is good for your baby, overcoming the challenges can make all the difference. Here, read on for 10 of the most common breastfeeding problems and solutions to make your breastfeeding journey easier.

1. Breastfeeding pain

One of the most common breastfeeding problems moms deal with is breastfeeding pain.

If you have pain when your baby latches on, it’s probably because the latch isn’t correct.

The best way to find out is to work with a lactation consultant in the hospital or birth center, or at home. A lactation consultant can show you how to position your baby, ensure the latch is right and that your baby is getting enough milk.

Another reason you may have breastfeeding pain is tongue-tie, a condition in which the piece of tissue under the tongue, or the frenulum, attaches to the bottom of the tongue and makes breastfeeding difficult.

According to a 2007 study in the journal Canadian Family Physician, between 4 and 10 percent of newborns are diagnosed with the condition.

When I had my second child, I had pain every time she latched on and when the midwife took a look, she said it was because of a slight tongue-tie.

I opted to have frenotomy, a procedure to snip her frenulum, but some providers may take a wait and see approach since it can improve.

Also, surgery to correct tongue-tie isn’t without controversy. According to a July 2019 study in the JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery, 63 percent of newborns who were referred for the surgery didn’t need it.

Since there are other abnormalities that can occur which can make breastfeeding painful, it’s always a good idea to consult with a lactation consultant.

Related: My Love-Hate Relationship With Breastfeeding

2. Low milk supply

Low milk supply is one of the most common breastfeeding problems and suffice to say, one of the most common reasons moms throw in the towel early or supplement with formula.

In fact, 49 percent of mothers said they stopped breastfeeding after two months because breast milk alone wasn’t enough to satisfy their babies.

Although many moms say they struggle with low milk supply, what’s interesting is that the research doesn’t add up.

Rachel O’Brien, a lactation consultant in Sudbury, Massachusetts has a great blog series on low milk supply I recommend you check out to see what the research says and the possible reasons for low milk supply.

Another challenge is that when you feed your baby a bottle, you know how much he ate, but when you’re breastfeeding, it’s not so easy.

If your baby is gaining weight, he has a certain amount of weight diapers a day and he’s hitting his developmental milestones, your milk supply is probably adequate.

If you’re uncertain however, make an appointment with a lactation consultant who can weigh your baby right after you feed him to make sure he’s getting enough.

3. Engorged breasts

My breasts are—and always have been— super-small: I’m barely an A cup.

Yet when I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t believe how large my breasts were—porn-star big.

It turns out, it’s totally normal.

In the first few days and weeks after giving birth when your milk comes in, it’s normal for your breasts to be engorged and feel hard.

There’s no doubt it’s uncomfortable, but be sure to feed frequently, at least 10 times per 24 hours.

Make sure your baby is emptying each breast during feedings and your breasts feel soft afterwards.

You can also gently massage your breasts before nursing or try a cold compress for up to 20 minutes beforehand.

4. Leaking breasts

With my first baby, I produced a lot of milk. She had a strong, efficient suck but I was also pumping, which increased my milk supply even more.

When I sat down to breastfeed, my milk would let down so fast she would often let go of the latch to catch a breath and my breasts would spray everywhere—something that’s known as overactive letdown.

Because I was producing a lot of milk, my breasts would leak when she cried, when another baby cried and even when I thought about her.

During the first few weeks of breastfeeding when you’re feeding all the time, it’s common to have leaking breasts.

The solution? Get yourself a box of nursing pads and keep extras on hand.

5. Breastfeeding latch

When it comes to breastfeeding problems, suffice to say, getting the latch right is one of the most common obstacles. It’s part art, part science.

When the latch is right, a large portion of your areola, or the dark skin around your nipple, is in your baby’s mouth. Your nipple should be opposite his nose and aimed at his upper lip and nose, not the middle of the mouth.

Sometimes all it takes is a different breastfeeding position to get it right.

I found the Boppie nursing pillow made it so much easier and I recommend you bring it to the hospital because propping your arm on regular ‘ol pillows isn’t ideal.

One I got the positioning and latch down pat however, I found I could sit anywhere and in any position.

A proper latch also means your breasts will drain and you’ll probably hear your baby swallowing. You’ll feel a slight tug at your breast, but there shouldn’t be pain. Always check with a lactation consultant if you’re unsure.

6. Sleepy baby

One of the biggest breastfeeding problems I had with my second child was that she was very sleepy especially the first few days after she was born.

I know some people say never wake a sleeping baby, but breastfed babies need to feed regularly, and besides, she was 4 weeks premature so I wanted to make sure she was gaining weight.

Some things you can try include switching breasts frequently, burping your baby, changing her diaper, holding her upright, taking her out of her swaddle or undressing her, massaging her hands or feet, and talking and singing to her and making eye contact.

7. Nipple confusion

After I had my first child, the lactation consultant in the hospital explained that I shouldn’t introduce a bottle of pumped milk for awhile until breastfeeding was established because it could create nipple confusion and cause her to prefer the bottle over the breast.

I did wait, but within a month or so, my daughter had no problem breastfeeding most of the time and taking a bottle from my husband at night.

My second child was more apprehensive to the bottle so I guess it depends on the baby.

8. Plugged milk ducts

Sometimes when a milk duct becomes clogged, you’ll have a hard lump in your breast.

Just as you would do to treat engorgement, continue with your normal feedings, make sure you’re draining your breasts entirely, massage the area and drink plenty of fluids.

Related: 9 Food Rules for Breastfeeding

9. Inverted or flat nipples

If your nipples are flat or inverted, it can make breastfeeding challenging especially in the first few weeks when your baby’s mouth is very small and he’s still getting used to feedings.

Although a proper latch is when your baby has a large portion of the areola in his mouth, inverted (concave) or flat nipples may make it challenging to get the latch right.

The good news is that it doesn’t mean breastfeeding will be impossible.

Talk to a lactation consultant about different treatments she recommends, which may include compressing your areola during feedings, using a breast pump before feedings to draw out the nipples, or using breast shells.

10. Mastitis

When I was breastfeeding, I had a bout of mastitis and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Not only did I have a large lump in my breast, but I felt like someone ran over me with a Mack truck.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast tissue that can cause redness, tenderness, or firmness around the breast as well as fever, fatigue and malaise.

Between 2 and 10 percent of breastfeeding moms are affected and mastitis may or may not be accompanied by a bacterial infection.

The condition usually happens when a milk duct becomes blocked from engorgement, but it can also happen from wearing a tight bra or clothing.

To clear mastitis, make sure you fully empty your breasts when you breastfeed or pump. If you have pain, applying heat to the area can also help with let down.

Your doctor may also prescribe antibiotics if the symptoms have been present for 12 to 24 hours or if you’re feeling ill.

It’s important to get plenty of rest, eat healthy and drink plenty of water.

 

Have you had any of these breastfeeding problems? Tell me what worked for you in the comments!

14 Ways To Cope With Thanksgiving Stress

14 Ways To Cope With Thanksgiving Stress

Although it’s supposed to be a day to gather with family and friends, make memories and well, give thanks, most moms know that Thanksgiving stress is a real phenomenon.

This is especially true if you’re the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner.

Between planning the menu, grocery shopping, timing the Turkey and cooking all the side dishes and desserts, you may also have to think about who is gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan.

And then of course, you have kids who are picky eaters.

Wrapped up in Thanksgiving stress are also the expectations we put on ourselves to have a sparkling clean home, perfect, Pinterest-worthy place settings, and the most delicious, praise-worthy dishes as if Paula Dean made them herself.

Then, you have all of the family dynamics and worrying about who doesn’t get along, who will have something to say about everything, and the potential for political arguments that may ensue.

If the thought of spending an entire day or more with your family adds to your Thanksgiving stress, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, it takes less than 4 hours for people to need a break from their extended family on the holidays.

GOT THANKSGIVING STRESS? ME TOO.

I guess it’s because he’s the most laid back guy I know, but my husband doesn’t understand Thanksgiving stress, or any type of holiday stress for that matter.

Thanksgiving is his favorite holiday, and it’s not because he gets to enjoy the turkey, a glass of wine and the football game all day. It’s actually quite the opposite.

For more than 20 years, the man has worked on Thanksgiving, making sure hundreds of families enjoy their own dinners. But before he leaves for work, he puts the turkey in the oven and leaves me instructions for the rest. Although he doesn’t get home until the latter part of the afternoon, he still looks forward to it every year.

Me? Not so much.

This year, we’re hosting 12 in addition to our 4 in our 1,800 square foot house.

Although my husband is doing most of the cooking, there’s still the pre-guest cleaning, laundry and setting up the guest room, dinner clean-up and post-guest cleaning.

When you have Generalized Anxiety Disorder like I do, all those people, personalities, noise and expectations—many of which are self-imposed— can make me want to run. Suffice to say, I’ll have a glass of wine in my hand. Or a Xanax. Or both. 😀

HOW TO COPE WITH THANKSGIVING STRESS

Although there may not be much you can do to get around hosting and cooking, and you certainly can’t control your family members, there are ways to let go of your expectations and have a stress-free Thanksgiving.

1. Lower Thanksgiving stress by making time for self-care

Before the holiday gets the best of you, carve out some time this week to do things that will lower your stress.

Some ideas include:

  • Take a yoga class
  • Watch an inspirational video
  • Read
  • Listen to uplifting music or calming music
  • Get your nails done or get a massage
  • Meet a friend for coffee
  • FaceTime with your bestie.

It might be tough to find the time, but focusing on self-care can go a long way in coping with Thanksgiving stress.

Related: 10 Tips For Self-Care All Moms Need

2. Fuel up before Thanksgiving dinner

Nothing good can come when you’re running on empty, or hangry.

Pulling together an entire Thanksgiving dinner without eating anything for breakfast will leave you feeling frazzled and depleted.

In the morning, make sure to eat a healthy breakfast that has a combination of protein, fiber and healthy fats to keep you going. Eggs with whole grain toast and leftover veggies, or Greek yogurt with berries and nuts are good options.

Depending on what time dinner will be served, consider having a small, healthy snack beforehand to keep your blood sugar levels steady and prevent eating until you’re stuffed.

3. Sneak in a workout

You might think I’m crazy, but I need to work out most mornings, especially on a holiday.

A sweat session releases endorphins, the feel good chemicals that make you feel happy and helps ease stress and anxiety.

On Thanksgiving, it may not be feasible to make it to the gym or get in a long run, for example, but even a short 15-minute walk in the neighborhood or a quick HIIT workout can be really effective.

4. Hire a babysitter

When time is tight and your to-do list is long, getting it all done with the kids underfoot is almost impossible.

Lean on your regular babysitter, a family member or swap babysitting with a friend.

Also, check in with your gym, kids’ play spaces and schools who may offer a few hours of care so you can get things done. 

5. Say ‘yes’ to help

When guests ask, what can I bring?, there’s no shame in taking them up on their offers.

Make a list of the dishes you enjoy making or those that don’t take a lot of time to make and delegate the rest.

Let guests bring a side dish, or if they don’t cook, a bottle of wine or a ready-made dessert.

The same goes if they ask to help with the dishes: yes, please!

6. Take shortcuts

Last week, I was having a conversation with my mom about all of the things she used to do to make the holidays special for our family.

Although from my perspective, it seemed like she did everything and it was effortless, she was quick to inform me that after it was all said and done, she was one exhausted mom.

She also pointed out that she took a lot of shortcuts.

Taking shortcuts aren’t a bad thing, but necessary if you’re looking to reduce your Thanksgiving stress.

Think about what types of shortcuts you can take. For example, instead of making the fancy potato dish you planned on, make roasted potatoes instead. Or rather than making cranberry sauce from scratch, pick up the canned version—it’s better anyway.

Although I planned on making a few desserts this year, with both of my kids sick with the flu these past two weeks, I’m making an easy dessert instead of the pumpkin pie from scratch I planned on.

7. Set the table the night before

If using your fine china, setting a traditional table and putting out handcrafted settings are your thing, more power to you, sista.

If you could care less about using your everyday dishes, mismatched glasses and the same cloth napkins you use for Christmas, own that too.

Either way, set the table the night before so it’s one less thing to think about on Thanksgiving.

8. Get the kids involved

When I was a kid, my mom always asked me to set the table for the holidays and I loved to help out. When we were guests in someone else’s home, it was also expected that we help clear the table and wash the dishes—it wasn’t an option.

I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that many parents nowadays think kids don’t have to help out.

If we don’t teach kids responsibility and manners, especially when you’re at someone else’s house, chances are, they’ll grow up to be young adults who don’t lift a finger either.

Depending on their ages, kids can take guests’ coats, or help with the cooking, setting the table, putting out the food, clearing the dishes and loading the dishwasher.

9. Make some of the meal ahead of time

Aside from the turkey, many side dishes can be cooked, or at least prepared a day or two ahead of time and then cooked or re-heated on Thanksgiving.

For dishes that must be made the day of, save time by washing and chopping onions, garlic, and vegetables, for example, beforehand.

10. Let guests help themselves to drinks

Keeping everyone’s drinks filled takes time—time that can be spent with your guests.

To make things easier, set up a cooler with water bottles, drinks for kids and beer.

On the kitchen counter or center island, put out bottles of wine, a beverage dispenser with cocktails, and glasses so guests can serve themselves.

11. Don’t worry about your picky eaters

When you have picky eaters, Thanksgiving stress can be taken up a notch.

You might worry how your kids will handle all the new foods, what they’ll eat or if they’ll eat at all.

Don’t fret, but consider giving your kids a small, healthy snack before you arrive to Thanksgiving dinner. If they refuse to eat, or only want a piece of bread, it won’t be a big deal.

I don’t recommend preparing a separate meal for your child, unless of course he can’t eat gluten or has food allergies.

Having a separate meal on hand teaches kids that you’ll accommodate them and cater to their preferences.

You can however, have a dish you know your kid— and everyone else—will enjoy. Need recipes? Check out 10 Fun Kid Thanksgiving Food Ideas.

 

12. Keep everyone moving

 

Kids running around the house can intensify Thanksgiving stress, so try to prepare ahead of time with crafts, gratitude activities or table games that can keep them busy.

If the weather is mild enough, encourage everyone to go out for a walk around the block or have a game of catch before or after dinner.

 

13. Focus on thanks and giving

It’s easy to get caught up in the food, the decor and the perfect everything but Thanksgiving is all about gratitude and family and/or friends.

Focusing on what you’re thankful for, whether you tell others around the table or not, can lower your Thanksgiving stress.

Maybe you’re thankful for your job, a health scare that is no more, or the fact that your kids made it through dinner without fighting—it’s the little things, right? 😀

 

14. Let it go

 

You can’t control what your mother-in-law may say about your parenting skills and so what that the turkey was a little on the dry side?

At the end of the day, everyone will eat and celebrate the holiday together.

Pat yourself on the back for getting it all done and remember: it’s not worth any more of your emotional energy. Draw yourself a bath, make a cup of tea and let it go, let it go!

What are some of the ways you lower Thanksgiving stress? Let me know in the comments!

10 Tips for Self Care All Moms Need

10 Tips for Self Care All Moms Need

     Self-care has been the buzzword of the last two years, with tons of books, websites and experts offering up their best advice. Just google self-care and you’ll get more than 2 billion results! And a survey by wellness company Shine found that 91 percent of millennial women said self-care is more important now than it was two years ago.

But let’s face it, when you’re a busy mom, self-care usually falls to the bottom of your list. In fact, according to a survey by HealthyWomen and Working Mother magazine, a whopping 78 percent of women said they often put off taking care of themselves or making their own doctors’ appointments because they’re so busy taking care of their other family members’ health.

I’ll admit that when I feel anxious, stressed out and stretched thin—which is the way I feel most of the time with generalized anxiety disorder—my mom, friends and my therapist have talked to me about self-care.

“Work less.”

“Go get your nails done.”

“Take a weekend getaway—alone.”


They all meant well of course, but between work, this blog, a husband who works long hours, a special needs child, and everything else that’s required to keep the wheels turning, every single time I’ve thought to myself, Self-care? Who has time for that?!

I mean, I eat healthy, workout 5 to 6 days a week, get enough sleep, and make time for God: isn’t that enough?

I also struggle with the feeling that self-care means being selfish. Maybe it was because when we were kids, self-care wasn’t a thing anyone talked about.

But in recent months, I’m realizing it’s something I need. I must make space in my life for self-care and things that bring me happiness and peace.

Self-care may be a foreign concept to you too, and it may be challenging to carve out the time for yourself. Still, it’s important to take the first step. So today, I’ve got 10 tips for self-care for you to consider.

 

 

What is self care? Self care definition

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the definition of self-care is:


“the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and to cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a healthcare provider.”


They go on to say that self-care is a broad concept that also includes things like hygiene (does getting your nails done count?), eating healthy, exercise, leisure activities, as well as things like the place we live and how much money we earn.

Self-care can be a host of different things and it’s completely individual.

For one mom, it may mean finding simple meal plan hacks in order to make healthy meals or finding the time to work out. For another mom it might mean asking their supervisor for a more flexible work schedule, or getting to bed earlier, asking a spouse to do more, or simply meditating for 5 minutes instead of watching Netflix.

 

10 Tips for Self Care


Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost anything. There are small changes you can make in your life that can make a big difference in your physical, mental and emotional health.


1. Eat healthy…yes, it is possible!

The single best thing you can do when it comes to self-care is to make eating healthy a priority. It’s not just something you should do, but something that can give you more energy, help you think more clearly, have less anxiety and help you feel like the rockstar you are.

Of course, focusing on real, whole foods can also help you lose weight and fuel your workouts.

On the flip side, if you often skip meals, eat on the run, or find yourself binging at night, these are things that are important to address.

Another benefit of eating healthy is that when you model healthy eating habits for your kids, they’ll be more likely to follow suit, which can cut down on picky eating and mealtime battles.

A misnomer about preparing healthy meals is that it’s time consuming, but nothing could be further from the truth. By doing some prep work ahead of time and sticking to the basics for example, there are easy, healthy ways to eat healthy.

 

2. Give yourself a time-out

Just like kids need time to calm down when their behavior is out of control, we also need quiet time to sit still and gain perspective when everything seems to be crashing down around us.

If you’re a type-A mom like I am, sitting for 2 minutes can feel like torture. But challenging yourself to carve out time each and every day just for you can help you de-compress.

This could mean getting up 20 minutes before everyone else to read, use a meditation app, pray, watch an inspirational video or do a visualization exercise. Or if you can swing it, it could be carving out 2 hours every Saturday to meet a friend for coffee, or take your favorite Yoga class while your partner shuttles the kids to activities.

 

3. One of the best tips for self care is to get moving

Whether it’s running, lifting weights or my favorite BODYCOMBAT class, a sweat session at the gym makes me feel energetic, optimistic, confident and more calm.

The benefits of exercise are endless: a lower risk for chronic health conditions and cancer, improved brain health, better sleep and a longer life. But exercise also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that make you feel happy and prepared to face the day.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans say adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week.

But if you can only make time for a 15-minute workout a few days a week, it’s better than nothing.

If you don’t enjoy going to the gym, you can still get a great workout at home or in your community. Walking, running, biking, swimming or using one of the many fitness apps at home can be a fun and realistic way to fit it in.

To ensure nothing else gets in the way, make an appointment with yourself and block it out on your calendar.

I like to work out in the early morning because I tend to lose motivation as the day goes on. But maybe after-dinner or during your lunch hour are the best times. Whenever it is, find what works for you.

 

4. Re-think your life

Whether you work full-time, part-time, or not at all, we all have too much on our plates. No surprise here, but a recent survey by Motherly found 62 percent of moms say in the last day, they had less than hour to themselves without work or family obligations.

This is a big problem with no easy solution. Most days, I come up short with a solution of how to slow down. In recent months however, I have been getting better at saying no:

“No, I can’t take the lead on this volunteer project anymore—can you step up?”

“No, we can’t attend Johnny’s birthday party, but we hope he has a blast!”

“No, I won’t research this for you, even though I’m always the one who does it.”

Think about the obligations you can bow out of, events you don’t have to go to, and extras you can so “no” to, no matter how worthy of a cause they may be. Instead, think about what matters now in this season of your life and make those a priority.

 

5. Tips for self care include making sleep non-negotiable

We live in a society that says sleeping 5 hours a night and burning the midnight oil are good things. We’re efficient, can get things done and we’ve managed to handle it all, but have we really?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, only 10 percent of people prioritize sleep even though we all should be getting between 7 and 9 hours a night. What’s more, a September 2019 study in the Journal of Community Health found that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep each night increased from 30.9% in 2010 to 35.6% in 2018.

It’s important to consider how much sleep you really need to function and feel like yourself and then figure out ways to make it happen. Maybe it means putting off the laundry another day, paying bills on the weekends, or closing out social media an hour earlier and hitting the sack.

 

6. Re-think work

When you become a mom everything changes, especially when it comes to career and work. In fact, more than half of millennial women said they made changes to their work status once they became moms, the same survey by Motherly found. While some women can “lean in,” others don’t have the financial means or the desire to do so.

Yet practicing self-care also applies to work. Depending on your family’s financial situation, it may not be feasible to quit your job for example, but there are other ways to make work and self-care work for you. Maybe your boss will allow you to work a more flexible schedule, transition to a more flexible role or work from home.

If not, it may be time to look for another opportunity. Two organizations I recommend are The Mom Project and The Second Shift.

Opening up a business may also be an option or if you already have one, it could mean getting an intern or hiring a virtual assistant to help out.

 

7. Be intentional

The only way to ensure that you have time for self-care is to put you on your schedule. Like I said before, if I don’t go to the gym first thing in the morning, it’s not going to happen.

Schedule your workouts, carve out time to make individual portions of smoothie ingredients for the week, or schedule one night a month to meet friends for dinner. 

 

8. Stay connected

Regardless of how busy we are, being a mom can be very isolating especially if you’re stay at home mom or work from home. It’s important therefore, to find ways to forge friendships and stay connected with other like-minded moms or “mom mentors,” who are older.

For me, that means meeting with “My Crew,” a group of friends from church at least once a month. But it could also be signing up for a dance or art class, volunteering for a cause that’s near to your heart, or organizing a mom’s night out with moms from your kid’s class.

The key isn’t to add one more thing to your to do list, but to do something that makes you feel connected with women who get it.

 

9. Download self care apps

When it comes to tips for self care, it can be as easy as downloading an app. When you’re short on time, there are self-care apps like Headspace, the Calm app or Stop, Breathe and Think. For workouts, I recommend Love Sweat Fitness, Les Mills or Every Mother.

 

10. Get self care books

My journey to more intentional self-care started this year after I read Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist. I also enjoyed Girl, Wash Your Face, by Rachel Hollis. If you like to reflect and write, you might want to try Choose You: A Guided Self-Care Journal Made Just for You!, by Sara Robinson.

 

What are some of your best tips for self care? Let me know in the comments!

10 Diet Tips for Losing The Baby Weight

10 Diet Tips for Losing The Baby Weight

     I’ll admit that Jessica Simpson’s whopping 100-pound weight loss just 6 months after giving birth to her third child is pretty amazing, but when it comes to losing the baby weight, it’s totally unrealistic for the rest of us non-celebrity, everyday moms.

Don’t get me wrong—this isn’t an opportunity to bash Jessica, or take away from her hard work and dedication to get back to her pre-baby body. But when you have a personal chef, a personal trainer and a nanny—which I’m guessing she does—losing the baby weight is a little easier.

For most new moms, being able to take a shower or run a load of laundry feels like an accomplishment. Still, today I’d like to talk about why losing the baby weight is important, and how to make it happen without going on a diet or feeling deprived.

Why Losing The Baby Weight Is Good For Your Health


My goal isn’t to shame or make you feel bad about your weight, but we should talk about the facts.

Not only do most women start out their pregnancies overweight, but nearly half gain more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy, according to an April 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Both your pre-pregnancy weight and the amount you gained during pregnancy can—but not necessarily will— impact your weight loss journey.

Another thing to consider is that 75 percent of new moms weigh more a year after giving birth than they do before becoming pregnant, a January 2015 study in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology found.

Although losing the baby weight can take time, getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight or a healthy weight is always a good idea.

Being overweight, or obese, can increase your risk for several major health problems including high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea and certain types of cancer. 

Plus, moms who don’t lose the baby weight within a year of giving birth or those who gain more weight during that time have an increased risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes later on in life, a study published in July 2014 in the journal Diabetes Care found.

If you become pregnant again, carrying around extra weight can also lead to pregnancy complications like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, blood clotting problems, gestational diabetes, and complications during labor and delivery.

Postpartum weight loss takes time

It should come as no surprise that losing the baby weight is a concern for most moms.

According to a survey by BabyCenter.com, 61 percent of new moms said they expected to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight by their baby’s first birthday but most didn’t.

In our society, it’s not easy to get around the barrage of weight loss success stories on social media, compare ourselves to celebrities and other women we know, and not feel the pressure to get our pre-bodies back fast.

Unfortunately, because of that pressure, many moms have high levels of body image dissatisfaction, putting them at risk for psychological distress, a March 2018 study in the journal Body Image found.

When it comes to losing the baby weight, the first step is to recognize that your genetics, body type and chemistry, and life are all unique.

It’s really hard to do, but try to stop comparing yourself to other moms—because the truth is, they don’t have it all together like you think they do and they’re trying to manage life just like you are. 

After you give birth, it’s also important to realize that you need time to heal and recover, bond with your baby and get sleep when you can. Give yourself a break and be realistic about how much and how fast you can lose the baby weight.

The key to healthy weight loss (for your body and mind) is slow and steady. It took nine months to gain the baby weight so it can take just as long to lose it.

And if you gained more than the recommended amount of weight, it could take up to a year to lose it, Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN stated in this article.

Related: How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

Tips for Losing The Baby Weight

With some simple, realistic strategies, you can get back to a healthy weight.

1. Eat real food

When you have a newborn and there’s not a lot of time to prepare healthy meals, getting take-out or eating your toddler’s left over boxed macaroni and cheese is an easy solution.

Yet a healthy diet made up of real, whole food will give you the energy you need to care for your baby and lose the weight.

A good rule of thumb is to eat between 5 and 9 servings a day of a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrition and fiber so they’ll help you feel fuller longer and stave off hunger.

Also be sure to include lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats like avocado on your plate.

Related: 6 Reasons Why Avocado Is Healthy For Kids

2. Don’t starve yourself

Drastically cutting calories can put your body into starvation mode and stall your weight loss.

Plus, if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you’re burning about 200 to 500 calories a day—calories your body needs to produce breast milk and boost your metabolism.

Instead of cutting calories, eat when you’re hungry, watch your portion sizes and choose foods that will satiate your hunger and give you energy.

3. Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is key for losing the baby weight.

Since water takes up space in the stomach, it can help you feel full and stave off hunger. It also helps to metabolize carbohydrates and stored fat in the body and can keep your energy levels up so you’re less likely to reach for something to eat.

Thirst can also be mistaken for hunger so drinking up before reaching for something to eat can help you decide whether you’re hungry or not.

In fact, according to a 2014 study in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine, overweight women who drank an additional 500 ml of water 30 minutes before meals lost weight and fat and lowered their body mass indexes (BMI).

According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, women should aim for 2.7 liters of water a day, while breastfeeding moms should get 3.1 liters a day.

If plain water isn’t your thing, add slices of cucumber or strawberry for a hint of flavor.

4. Prioritize protein

Eating enough protein helps to stabilize blood sugar, gives you energy, prevents overeating and can help you lose weight.

Getting protein in your meals and snacks is particularly important if you’re breastfeeding since there are high demands of protein on your body.

5. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time

When hunger strikes, it so easy to grab what’s available which isn’t always the healthiest option.

If you like to do meal planning for the week, go for it, but at the very least, think ahead and have a handful of easy, healthy dinner ideas so you’re not left stranded.  

Use your Instant Pot or Crock-Pot or try sheet pan meals to get dinner on the table quickly.

Also, do your best to carve out a few minutes to set aside cut-up fruits and vegetables, individual portions of smoothie ingredients, or nuts and seeds for easy grab-and-go options.

6. Keep healthy snacks on hand

Healthy snacks help to satisfy hunger, keep blood sugar levels stable, and prevent overeating and weight gain. 

Some good options include an apple with almond butter, Greek yogurt and raspberries, or hummus and baby carrots. 

7. Watch your wine

Relaxing with a glass of wine or your drink of choice at night can help you decompress, but the calories can also add up fast.

For example, a 5-ounce serving of Pinot Noir can net 121 calories. which is fine, but if you’re one of the 40 percent of adults who drink more than that the calories can add up quickly.

Also, if you’re breastfeeding, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says an occasional drink is OK, but having more than two drinks every day can be harmful to your baby and may cause drowsiness, weakness, and abnormal weight gain.

They also recommend moms wait at last 2 hours after having a drink before breastfeeding again. One drink of alcohol includes:

  • 6 ounces of wine
  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor

8. Leave room for treats

Losing the baby weight shouldn’t mean deprivation, so leave room for a piece of dark chocolate, dried fruit, or a serving of popcorn, for example.

Related: [VIDEO] Is Dried Fruit Healthy for Kids?

9. Curb emotional eating

It’s common to feel anxious and stressed especially when you’re a new mom, and if you also have postpartum depression, everything can feel overwhelming.

If you’re an emotional eater like I am, you’re not alone.

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of women eat to manage stress.

Although eating can be soothing, it’s always a temporary feeling and it can hinder your ability to lose weight.

Instead of turning to food to feel better, make a list of healthy activities you can do instead of eating: going for a walk with your baby, calling a friend, journaling or meditation, for example.

10. Ask an expert about losing the baby weight

If you’re looking for a customized plan and more help losing the baby weight, I recommend you speak to a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in maternal nutrition and/or breastfeeding or seek the help of a therapist who works with new moms. 

The Truth About Being A Mom With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The Truth About Being A Mom With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Being a mom is hands down the hardest job you’ll ever have but for some moms who also struggle with anxiety, depression or another form of mental illness, parenting is that much tougher. As a mom with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), I live with that struggle every day.

I’ve had anxiety since childhood, but shortly after I graduated from college, I saw a therapist who finally put a name to the constant worry about everything and anything that I was experiencing.

Writing about my challenges as a mom with generalized anxiety disorder is not easy because let’s face it: there is still a huge stigma around mental illness.

Yet the truth is that although being a mom with generalized anxiety disorder makes life challenging, it hasn’t held me back in life. I have a thriving writing business, a loving family and supportive friends. GAD doesn’t make a person weak (quite the opposite) and it’s not a character flaw, so if you are a mom who struggles with GAD, I want you to know, there is hope.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is a type of anxiety disorder that’s marked by constant, excessive worry around just about anything: health, work, family, and finances. GAD puts a negative lens on your outlook on life and causes you to anticipate the worst about things that are happening or could happen, whether they’re likely to or not.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 6.8 million adults have GAD but women are twice as likely to be affected. 

GAD can occur at any age, but it usually shows up between childhood and middle age—the typical onset is 31, which of course, is right around the time many women have their children.

For me, when I wake up in the morning, I do my best to pray and be still, but my heart and my brain are always off to the races.

I think about the what-ifs and the how-will-Is and the when-will-Is and the what-if-I- dos and what-if-I-don’ts.

As I try to plan and feel in control of my life, the worry ramps up that much more and everything feels even more out of control.

But it doesn’t only happen in the morning. It continues throughout the day and into the night until I finally fall asleep.

When it comes to work, GAD has its benefits and its drawbacks. As a health journalist, I think it has helped me track down stories, stay organized and make all of the deadlines.

But as you can imagine, writing about health all day can also cause my anxiety to ramp up and make me think, what if I have that condition too?

I also often worry about making deadlines and getting all the work done—even when there’s no reason to worry. 

These thoughts can take over so quickly that one minute you’re feeling fine and the next you’re not. For example, earlier this year when my provider said I was anemic and suggested I see a specialist, I headed to Google and I diagnosed myself: cancer!

As a mom with generalized anxiety disorder, it’s also no surprise that I often worry about my kids, but probably more than a mom without the disorder.

For example, my kids are in elementary school but when I check on them at night, I still check to make sure they’re breathing. When one of them gets a cold or has a stomachache, I worry that it’s something more serious.

When my husband takes my daughters out to run an errand, I make sure to give them hugs and kisses and then start to worry, what if they all die in a car accident?

And if my husband says he’ll be home by 7pm, and it’s 7:05, I immediately think he’s been in a car accident too.

Money is another hot button issue when you have GAD. Although we’re fortunate and can pay our bills and save, I worry that one or both of us will lose our jobs, not be able to pay the bills and go into debt.

Another way being a mom with generalized anxiety affects my life is that I feel overwhelmed by every responsibility big or small: cooking, cleaning, Target runs, the kids’ homework, their doctor’s appointments, parent-teacher conferences and meetings, paying the bills, sending in health insurance claims.

The list goes on and on.

GAD can also make me irritable. When my kids act silly, run around the house, have a meltdown or shriek with happiness because their dad is tickling them, it feels like fingernails on a chalkboard.

It all sounds completely irrational—because it is—but getting yourself out of the worry cycle is tough. People can tell me “be positive,” “relax” or “stop worrying,” but if it were that easy, then no one would have GAD.

GAD Symptoms and Signs

If you experience anxiety from time to time or around a certain life stressor, you know what it feels like. But for people with GAD, they find it hard to control the anxiety, and experience 3 or more of the following symptoms for 6 months or longer:

  • Feeling nervous, irritable, restless, or on edge

  • Being easily fatigued, feeling weak or lightheaded

  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank

  • Muscle aches and tension, headaches, stomach aches and other pain

  • Problems falling or staying asleep

  • Having a sense of impending doom, danger or panic

  • Increased heart rate

  • Rapid breathing, sweating and/or trembling

  • Feeling easily startled

 

GAD causes and risk factors

It’s unclear what causes GAD but experts say biological processes and the brain  play a role as well as:

Genetics: GAD runs in some families.

Personality: people who are negative or apprehensive and avoid danger may be more likely to have GAD. 

Life experiences: significant life changes, stressful or negative experiences, and trauma may all contribute. 

People with GAD are also more likely to be diagnosed with other mental health disorders including:

  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide

GAD Treatment

When it comes to effective treatments for generalized anxiety disorder, there are several options.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of therapy which helps you to identify, understand, challenge and change irrational thoughts and behaviors.

CBT has been very helpful for me through the years. You can find a trained therapist but I also recommend “The Feeling Good Handbook,” by David D. Burns. 

Medication
There are several types of medications that doctors prescribe for GAD including antidepressants, benzodiazepines and buspirone, an anti-anxiety medication.

Before you take medication, I recommend you ask your doctor to run a genetic test to determine which ones are right for you.

While medication does help some people, it didn’t for me. I also don’t believe they’re as effective as doctors and the pharmaceutical industry pegs them out to be.

To learn more, read “A Mind Of Your Own,” by Kelly Brogan, M.D. or at least read some of her blog posts about the dangers of antidepressants and how to help yourself with diet and lifestyle.

Relaxation techniques
Deep breathing exercises and techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense every part of your body and then release, can help ease anxiety.

Mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation, a practice that focuses on breathing, mind-body relaxation and accepting your feelings and thoughts, has become mainstream and may help those with GAD. In fact, a March 2014 study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests 30 minutes a day of meditation may improve symptoms of anxiety and stress.

How I cope with being a mom with generalized anxiety disorder


Although GAD is a daily struggle for me, there are several ways I’ve found through the years that help me cope.

Eat healthy
In my 20’s, when I ate a lot of processed foods and ate out a lot, my anxiety was much worse. Today, I eat a mostly whole foods diet that consists of fruits and vegetables, lean protein sources including many plant-based foods, whole grains, and healthy fats. I also work with a naturopath who has prescribed supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies and help ease anxiety.

Exercise
Whether it’s running, lifting weights or taking my favorite BODYCOMBAT class, sweating it out at the gym 5 to 6 days a week is a must to help me cope with GAD.

Get enough sleep
Sleep was definitely hard to come by when my daughters were babies—and even for years afterwards when they would wake up during the night. But now I try my best to prioritize sleep and get 7 to 8 hours because when I don’t get enough, it really affects my mood.

Volunteer
Every month, my daughters and I volunteer at a local non-profit organization where we “shop” for and deliver groceries to families in need. Not only does it help others and teach my kids how fortunate they are, but it helps me put things in perspective when I’m in a negative rut.

And science actually backs this up. According to a September 2017 study in the Journal of Clinical Pyschology, people who had anxiety and/or depression and focused on “compassionate goals,” or striving to help others and avoid selfish behavior, was associated with lower levels of symptoms and less relationship conflict.

Laugh
The old adage laughter is the best medicine is important when you have GAD because it helps you change your perspective. For me, it can be watching a funny show, or videos of Kristina Kuzmic or Cat and Nat. Most of the time however, it’s my husband who makes me laugh about anything and everything—sometimes so hard I can’t breathe!

Relax
When life gets stressful, my anxiety ramps up. Although it’s really hard to relax when you’re a mom with generalized anxiety disorder, I try to carve out time at night or on the weekends to sit, read and relax.

Faith
Last, but certainly not least, my faith in God has been a tremendous source of strength in my life. When worry and anxiety consume me, I turn to the Lord, pray and ask for his strength. By His grace, he helps me through.

7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

7 Safe Pregnancy Exercises For Every Trimester

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was working as an editor at a parenting magazine and I received a book about how to have a healthy pregnancy and there was a chapter devoted to safe pregnancy exercises.

At that time, I was teaching Spinning classes and running a few days a week. Since I had previously had a miscarriage however, my doctor suggested that I back off my workouts until I was 12 weeks pregnant and in the “safe zone.”

I knew the benefits of exercise during pregnancy and the importance of staying active, but without my favorite workouts, I needed to find something that was safe and I could do throughout my pregnancy.

During the first trimester, as my belly started to grow and morning sickness kicked in, I found that I was more tired, had less endurance and my balance wasn’t as strong.

So although I tried to start running again, it just wasn’t happening. Instead, I relied on walking, weight training, prenatal yoga, and some simple stretches and core exercises.

Whether you’re in the best shape of your life, or just starting out on an exercise journey, there are tons of safe pregnancy exercises and workouts to help you have a healthy pregnancy. 

 

 

Is it safe to exercise during pregnancy?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends women with normal, healthy pregnancies get between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most—or all days—of the week.

Although exercise doesn’t increase your risk for miscarriage, low birth weight or early delivery, there are certain conditions like placenta previa and preeclampsia that would make exercise off limits.

Always check with your OB/GYN or midwife first before exercising, even if it’s your normal workout.

 

What are the benefits of exercise during pregnancy?

According to a September 2016 study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 60 percent of women don’t get enough exercise, even when activities like walking to the store are included.

Yet with so many benefits of pregnancy exercise, it’s a win-win for you and your baby.

Healthier babies
Studies show pregnant women who exercise give birth to children who are healthier during infancy and beyond.

In fact, an August 2019 study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found newborns whose moms exercise during pregnancy are more adept at movement and are potentially more likely to be active throughout their lives, which can reduce their risk for childhood obesity.

Lower risk of pregnancy complications
According to a 2018 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, exercise during pregnancy strengthens women’s heart and blood vessels and may reduce their risk of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes by 25 percent.

Studies also show women who exercise during pregnancy are less likely to gain excess weight, give birth to babies who weigh more than 9 pounds (also known as macrosomia), and less likely to have caesarean sections.

Fights fatigue
Most pregnant women feel sluggish, particularly during the early weeks of pregnancy and then again as they near their due dates.

Although the last thing you might feel like doing is going to the gym, getting in a workout—even if it’s walking, swimming or a prenatal Yoga class—can give you a boost of energy.

Prevents pregnancy constipation
Constipation is one of the most annoying side effects of pregnancy and it’s quite common—between 11 and 38 percent of women deal with it.

Blame it on your hormones, prenatal vitamin, and changes in your diet, but constipation can also be a result of being sedentary so it’s a good idea to carve out time for exercise most days of the week. 

Eases aches and pains
Staying active during pregnancy can help ease low back pain, pelvic pain, leg cramps and round ligament pain which are all common during pregnancy.

 

Improves sleep
When you’re dealing with heartburn, aches and pains, your growing belly and frequent trips to the bathroom, a good night’s sleep can be hard to come by.

Yet regular exercise can help you fall asleep and stay asleep more easily and help you cope with the stress and anxiety that might be keeping you awake.

One caveat: don’t exercise too close to bedtime since it can have the reverse effect.

Shorter labor, faster recovery from childbirth
Exercise during pregnancy can help build up your strength, muscle tone and endurance which may make labor shorter and less painful.

In fact, a May 2018 study in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology found women who exercised throughout their pregnancies had shorter labors and were less likely to get an epidural.

Research also shows women who exercise during pregnancy recover faster after giving birth.

Healthier moms
Staying active during pregnancy can help you establish a healthy habit that you’re likely to stick with after giving birth and as a result, prevent certain conditions.

For example, moving throughout the day in the weeks after delivery, and exercising once you get the all-clear from your doctor, may lower your risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots.

It can also help keep your energy levels up despite the sleepless nights and 24/7 care your newborn requires.

Helps you lose the baby weight
Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain during pregnancy and help you shed the post-baby lbs.

Certain exercises can also help prevent or recover from conditions like diastasis recti, or a separation of the abdominal muscles that affects more than 50 percent of moms.

May prevent postpartum depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), postpartum depression affects approximately 1 in 9 women nationwide and in some states, as many as 1 in 5 have the condition.

Yet studies show exercise during pregnancy may prevent it.

In fact, a September 2017 meta-analysis in the journal Birth found women who participated in various types of exercise like stretching and breathing, walking, aerobics, Pilates and yoga during pregnancy had lower scores on depression symptom tests than women who didn’t exercise.

Related: 6 Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression

 

Workouts to avoid while pregnant

Although most types of workouts are safe, there are reasons to stick with safe pregnancy exercises.

You should avoid workouts that could cause you to be hit in the belly such as contact sports like softball, volleyball, basketball and tennis.

Workouts that could cause you to fall should be avoided as well. Think downhill skiing, surfing, water skiing, off-road cycling, and horseback riding.

Since staying hydrated is really important during pregnancy, it’s also best to avoid workouts that could make you become overheated, such as hot yoga or even walking outside on a hot, humid day.

There are also simple, gentle workouts you should avoid, such as those where you need to lie on your belly or stand still or have twisting movements.

After 20 weeks of pregnancy, you should also avoid exercises that require you to lie flat on your back.

 

Pregnancy tips for exercise

Whether you’re heading out for a brisk walk or prenatal yoga is more your speed, here are some tips to consider to ensure your workouts are safe, beneficial and fun.

Always warm up
Before you start any type of exercise, it’s always a good idea to start off with a warm-up for at least 5 minutes. A warm-up helps the blood vessels dilate and contract so you won’t feel out of breath, and it helps to prevent injuries.

Drink plenty of water
During pregnancy, it’s really important to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water throughout the day and especially during and after each workout.

Staying hydrated is how your baby gets all of the nutrients you consume and can help prevent urinary tract infections (UTI’s), constipation, headaches and swelling.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine recommends pregnant women drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.

Start exercising even if you haven’t been active
If you didn’t exercise regularly before pregnancy, it’s not only OK to start now, but it’s recommended. However, you should start out slow and gradually increase the intensity and time.

If you regularly exercised before getting pregnant and you have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy, you can stick with the same type of exercise, even high intensity workouts.

You should however, talk to your provider first to make sure you’re not going overboard.

Look for prenatal workouts
While Pilates and Yoga for example, can be great, low-impact workouts, some programs include movements that should be avoided during pregnancy.

When possible, it’s a good idea to choose prenatal programs which are geared specifically for pregnant moms or at the very least, ask the instructor for modifications.

Cool down
Just as your warm-up is important, be sure to make time at the end of your workout to cool down which will steadily and safely decrease your heart rate.

Listen to your body
When working out, don’t try to push yourself too hard and pay attention to how you’re feeling.

If you feel dizzy or faint, have shortness of breath, pain, swelling or weakness in any area of your body or other symptoms that you’re concerned about, stop and call your provider.

Likewise, if you feel sluggish or not like yourself, throw in the towel.

 

 

Safe pregnancy exercises for every month of your pregnancy

When it comes to choosing your workouts, there are some workouts that are safer than others, but the key is to choose something that is enjoyable and that you’re more likely to stick with. 

Walking
Walking is one of the best safe pregnancy exercises because it’s gentle on the muscles and joints, plus it’s free and can be done anywhere.

Swimming
Swimming is a safe, effective total body workout and when you’re pregnant, getting into the pool and feeling weightless is an amazing feeling.

Strength training
Moderate weight lifting using free weights or weight machines can keep your muscles and bones strong.

What’s more, an April 2018 study in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found pregnant women who did resistance training twice a week had better mood and energy levels than women who didn’t.

Although strength training with weights can be safe during pregnancy, there are some movements that can cause injury or misalignment of the muscles.

Instead of maxing out on your reps, stick with lighter weights and more reps.

If you’re new to lifting weights, start out with light weights or use a resistance band. You might also choose to work with a trainer for a few sessions to learn how to lift safely.

Looking for a prenatal workout program? FIT4BABY is designed for pregnant moms and it combines cardio, strength training, balance, flexibility and meditation.

Core exercises
You’ll want to avoid crunches, sit-ups and double leg lifts, for example, which put strain on the abdominal muscles.

Of course, after 20 weeks, you’ll also want to avoid anything where you’re lying on your back.

However, safe abdominal exercises during pregnancy can help to ease back pain, may make your labor easier and can prevent diastasic recti.

If you’re looking for a program, I recommend EMbody, by Every Mother, which is the only fitness method proven to prevent and resolve diastasic recti.

Prenatal yoga
Studies show prenatal yoga can help ease pelvic pain, reduce stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression, and may make labor easier.

Experts say prenatal yoga can improve sleep, increase strength and flexibility and ease aches and pains throughout the body.

Prenatal classes are always great because of the community aspect, but if you’re looking for an at-home program, try Prenatal Yoga with Desi Bartlett.

Spinning
Spinning classes can be really intense but they’re actually designed for each person to go at their own pace.

Be sure to stay hydrated, avoid getting overheated and instead, go at your own pace. If standing up and riding is too challenging, bike while sitting down, for example.

Dance
Salsa, cardio dance and Zumba can all be fun, safe exercises pregnancy exercises that are easy on the joints, and can boost your energy and help keep your endurance levels up.

 

What are some of your favorite safe pregnancy exercises? Let’s open the conversation–leave me a comment!

 

My Love-Hate Relationship With Breastfeeding

My Love-Hate Relationship With Breastfeeding

When I was pregnant with my first child, I read about all of the amazing benefits of breastfeeding and decided right away that I’d breastfeed.

It seemed natural, easy and the best decision for my baby, but little did I know that after two babies and 25 months combined, I’d grow to have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding.

Here’s why.

Things I Loved About Breastfeeding

 

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby’s health and your own.

To this day, I still think it’s one of the most amazing experiences as a mom. I was in awe that my body could provide the perfect nutrition my babies needed and the nutrients in my breastmilk even adjusted as they grew.

For babies, studies show breastfeeding can lower the risk of SIDS, childhood obesity, type-2 diabetes, asthma, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting and lower respiratory infections.

There’s also research that shows breastfeeding may prevent picky eating.

When it comes to moms, breastfeeding lowers the risk for type-2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancer.

What’s more, an August 2018 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who breastfeed for one month or longer had a 23 percent lower risk for stroke.

 

My breasts got huge

Since I went through puberty, my breasts have been barely an A cup.

To be perfectly honest, it never really bothered me much and it was something I just accepted about my body.

When I was breastfeeding however, I couldn’t believe how large my breasts grew—porn-star big.

They went back to their normal size when I stopped breastfeeding of course, but it was a nice benefit for me and my husband while they lasted.

 

 

I was grateful for breastfeeding support

After I had my babies, I was grateful to have support from the lactation consultants at the hospitals I gave birth in.

The women took their time to explain how to position my babies, make sure the latch was correct and how I could tell that they were getting enough milk.

To get that help made all the difference in making breastfeeding easier, and I felt supported by other women who had been there especially during a time when I felt totally unsure of myself as a new mom.

 

 

The weight loss

The day I left the hospital with my first child, the neonatal nurse told me if I continued to breastfeed, “the weight would melt right off.”

That was good news for me since I had gained too much weight during pregnancy.

She was right. I exclusively breastfed, ate healthy and exercised regularly and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in just a few months. 

Related: How I Lost The Baby Weight Twice

Although breastfeeding can help you lose weight, this isn’t the case for everyone.

How much you’ll lose and how fast depends on how long you exclusively breastfeed for, how much weight you gained during your pregnancy, as well as your diet and exercise habits after you give birth.

Things I Hated About Breastfeeding

 

My first experience was a negative one

Let me paint a picture for you of my first breastfeeding experience in the hospital.

It’s an experience I wouldn’t wish on any mom and it’s something that could have easily deterred me from breastfeeding.

At 38 weeks, I had just given birth after a 41-hour ordeal in which a nurse told my husband and I that I didn’t need a birthing ball—women in other countries just buck up and give birth!

And my doctor walked out of the room while I pushing, annoyed that I wasn’t delivering fast enough.

Those were just the highlights of what was an arduous labor and delivery with plenty of twists and turns.

By the way, this was a top ranking hospital in one of the wealthiest areas in the country.

In any case, I was holding my daughter and one of the labor and delivery nurses was by my side. I started to breastfeed and asked her if the latch was correct. Her response? “I thought you said you read a book about breastfeeding?”

I was shocked and upset by her utter lack of understanding, kindness and compassion.

New moms need to feel supported—not shamed.

 

 

Breastfeeding is a part-time job

Don’t get me wrong, pulling out your breast and putting your baby next to you is quicker and much easier than having to get up in the middle night to prepare a bottle while your baby cries.

But breastfeeding is time consuming in other ways and takes more patience than bottle feeding.

When I was breastfeeding, I always felt like I was “on-call,” especially in the beginning when there are 8 to 12 feedings a day.

In the first few months, my husband would wake up to feed our daughter a bottle of pumped milk but I often woke up to pump as well so my milk supply wouldn’t dwindle.

 

 

My baby didn’t eat like formula-fed infants do

When I had my second child, I saw a lactation consultant and told her the Babywise methodology, the eat, play, sleep schedule that had worked perfectly with my older daughter wasn’t working at all with my second.

Instead, she wanted to breastfed all the time and I was one tired mama.

She explained that unlike formula-fed babies who eat on a schedule and can go longer between feedings, breast milk is digested quickly and the truth is, newborns eat all the time.

 

 

 

I got mastitis and D-MER

When I was breastfeeding, I had a bout of mastitis and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

Not only did I have a large lump in my breast, but I felt like someone ran over me with a Mack truck.

I also battled a sneaky condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER), in which I had a moment of intense anxiety and feeling of doom right as my milk letdown.

 

 

My body was out of control

With my first baby, I produced a lot of milk. She had a strong, efficient suck and I was also pumping.

My breasts would leak when she—or another baby nearby—cried so I always wore nursing pads.

When I sat down to breastfeed, my milk would let down so fast my daughter would often let go of the latch to catch a breath and my breasts would spray everywhere. 

Since breastfeeding also causes estrogen levels to be low, sex was challenging and often painful. And those leaking breasts? Yea, that happened during sex too thanks to oxytocin—fun times!

 

 

Going back to work was hard

I was lucky to be able to work from home when I had my kids and have (the most amazing) babysitter care for them in our home.

I started working again two weeks after my daughter was born and I only worked part-time. But I had deadlines to meet so trying to feed my baby or pump a bottle and get my work done in a short amount of time was stressful.

Studies show only about 50 percent of moms are still breastfeeding at 6 months and we know that returning to the workforce is one major obstacle.

 

 

My child had tongue tie

When I had my second daughter, I told one of the midwives in the hospital that breastfeeding was painful.

She looked in my daughter’s mouth and said she had a slight tongue-tie, a condition in which the piece of tissue under the tongue, the frenulum, attaches to the bottom of the tongue which makes breastfeeding difficult.

I wasn’t in severe pain but after a year of breastfeeding, I knew it shouldn’t feel that way.

She also explained that if it was left uncorrected, it could interfere with her speech later on. I also couldn’t wait to have the in-office procedure to snip the frenulum,  because if I did, she’d need surgery in the hospital.

A few days later, I made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor and although I decided it was the best choice, it was a rushed visit and seemed like the only option.

Within 2 minutes, he clipped the frenulum with scissors and my daughter burst into tears. When I went to check out and was told the procedure was $500, I cried too.

Despite all of the breastfeeding challenges I faced, I was grateful that it ultimately became easy for me and I didn’t have to deal with low milk supply or make the decision to go back into an office full-time like others moms do.

Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Did you have a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding? Let me know your experience by leaving me a comment!