Family Life, Labor & Delivery, Parenting, Pregnancy

I’m A New Mommy, Now What? 5 Tips for Success for The New Mom

Being a new parent can be exhilarating, beautiful and intimidating all at the same time.  You are in new uncharted territory and therefore may not have a clue as to what to expect and what may actually be your reality as a new parent.  You may have read every book, website and listened to knowledgeable and opinionated fellow parents and family along the way, but ultimately, you know that when you’re alone with this wondrous new life, it may just be you and your instincts that will make the decisions in caring for your bundle of joy.

So what’s a new mom to expect when you’re home and it’s lights, camera, ACTION? Parenthood in real time!  Purestock_1574R-04086.thumbnail

First, it is best to prepare ahead of time to make things as comfortable as possible for when you arrive home.  Be sure that your home is ready to receive you and the new baby.  If you are fortunate, you can get help in cleaning and organizing your home.  No matter how much or how little space you have to share among your growing family, you have to find ways to de-clutter, and make your dwelling as baby friendly as possible.  This may require you to shed some household items that are no longer useful to you.  You may choose to recycle or donate those items.  Remember, as your baby grows, so will your collection of “stuff”, so it’s best to start off with a clean slate at home.  There’s so much more to come…

Second, be sure to understand that you’re not going to do everything perfectly, but it will likely work out perfectly – for you.  What I mean by that is, you must trust your inner spirit.  If something feels right – most likely it is.  If it feels wrong, and your instincts are sending you signals that question your judgement, then you may want to reevaluate and/or seek advice.  There is nothing wrong with asking for help.  In fact, it can make you feel more at peace in knowing that you sought out answers and thwarted any potential mishaps along the way.

Third, you want to remember that babies do cry – a lot.  And no baby has ever been injured from crying.  Even though many a parent may say their ears have suffered injury from their little one crying their little head off.  So, you have to understand that when you need to walk away and take a break if your baby is super fussy – DO IT!  Place them in a safe space like a crib, swing, or playpen with no suffocation or choking hazards like blankets, or toys, and walk away for a few moments of quiet and sanity.  You have to do this sometimes so that you don’t wear yourself down.  You want to certainly avoid a situation that could place your baby in danger of being hurt.  Unfortunately, some frustrated parents have regrettably injured their children in these situations, and there’s no turning back from this.  I hate to mention it, but it is a reality that Shaken Baby Syndrome has negatively impacted families and you want to be sure to protect your child from preventable injury.  If you feel yourself reaching a breaking point, reach out for help by calling on the other parent, a family member, neighbor or friend when you are feeling overwhelmed.  And remember, a few moments alone for you to regroup is good for both you and baby.  Mommy has to have time for herself too.  Getting pampered, visiting a friend, taking a walk, or just going on a shopping trip alone can help to renew your spirit and give you a mommy time out.

As you know, breastfeeding is the best choice for both baby and you.  The health, emotional, and financial benefits are countless.  So, if you are having challenges breastfeeding seek help from your care providers.  Your obstetrician, midwife or a lactation professional can provide you with valuable information and support to keep you on track and help you troubleshoot any breastfeeding issues you may have.  As well, be sure to have your care provider request your FREE breast pump from your insurance company.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (affectionately called Obamacare) you are eligible for a high quality, electric breast pump as a part of your health insurance benefit.  Once it arrives, you should test out your breast pump at least one month before returning to work or school.  When you unpack your pump, it can be very intimidating.  There are several different parts to connect, and there is a learning curve to successfully using it.  The good news is that once you hit your sweet spot, you can express your milk within about 10 to 15 minutes on average.  Sometimes, you can even pump one breast while nursing your little one on the other breast if you want to be efficient.  But please don’t obsess about pumping, and how much milk you produce in the beginning.  You’ll eventually get the hang of it.  You may get two ounces from one breast and four from the other.  That’s normal.  Sometimes you may get less than that.  That’s normal too.  Be sure to stay hydrated by drinking your water, keep taking your prenatal vitamins, and please eat a nutritious, well-balanced organic and non-GMO diet.  This can help you stay healthy, and up for the excitement and physical challenges of motherhood.

Another important breastfeeding tip to keep you on track is to be sure not to solely depend on the breast pump to feed your baby.  Be sure to put your baby to the breast frequently.  The closeness of your baby; skin-to-skin and their suckling will keep your milk supply up.  The breast pump can never compare to the natural stimulation that you receive from your baby.  If you have to return to work or school be sure to nurse your little one when you are home.  Many moms breastfeed in the morning and then in evening when they return home.  This is your special time to reconnect after a long day away from one another.  If you are having difficulty with breastfeeding, a common issue is sore nipples, which may be prompting you to pump instead of putting the baby to the breast.  If this is happening, a simple adjustment of the baby’s latch could resolve the issue.  Be sure the baby”s mouth is wide open. By touching your nipple to the baby’s nose, you can force them to open up nice and wide, where then you can pop the nipple and some of the surrounding areola in their mouth.  This technique can nip nipple pain in the bud and give you a good latch.  If breast or nipple pain is persistent, you may have an underlying health issue like thrush, nipple damage, or swollen milk ducts which is an infection called mastitis.  These all require medical attention.  Don’t hesitate to give your clinician a call when in doubt.

Lastly, it’s important to think about your future, and the future plans of your family.  Do you want more children?  Would you like to change careers soon?  Advance in your current profession?  Become an entrepreneur?  A stay-at-home mom?  These are things that should certainly be on your radar as a woman and mother, because they can impact the decisions you will make in the coming months and years.  It is vital that you are always evaluating your life’s path, and how your family life and structure will be impacted by your decisions.  You want to strategize how all aspects of your full rich life can all flow together in harmony.

Creating synergy among these important facets of your life, and your life goals are essential to helping you feel more focused, and confident.  As a result, you to be more proactive, and less reactive as things happen in your life.  Now of course no one can predict the future.  And we don’t know what the Creator has in store for us, but if we stay positive, grateful and do our best to make sound decisions for us and our family, we can improve the odds that we will have positive outcomes and a more balanced life.

It’s wise to spend time discussing your life plan, desires and aspirations with those people you care about, and trust.  They may provide you with good advice and loving guidance.  And seek out professional mentors for career advice.

When it comes to parenting, surround yourself with smart, seasoned parents who can help you to gain perspective, and give you the support you need and deserve.  Remember that you don’t have to go it alone, as it takes a village to raise a child, and raise them well.

Good luck future Magnificent Mommies!

Stay Healthy and Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner
A special thank you to Angela; a future Magnificent Mommy for inspiring me to write this article.

*This article is for educational purposes only and does not replace the advice or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner.

Edited by Darryl J. Abrams

birth plan, Breastfeeding, Emotional Health, Family Life, Female Reproductive Health, Labor & Delivery, Parenting, Pregnancy

Labor of Love: Preparing for the Delivery of Your Baby – Packing the Bag

Three young women shopping for clothes

Preparing for the arrival of your new baby is a fun and exciting time, and of course it gives us another reason to shop (yea!).  It’s best to be prepared, and ready to roll out with a well-stocked bag.  From this, you can be on point for your labor and delivery experience so that you can feel calm, and reduce any unnecessary anxiety about your big day.  I believe that this begins with planning ahead by packing your bag at least within the last month of your pregnancy, and by preparing your birth plan (read more about making your birth plan here).  Keep in mind, you could go into labor earlier than expected, and if your bag is not packed, you could end up frantically trying to gather all your labor bag items when you should be calmly focused on getting to the facility or hospital safely.

When packing your bag there are essential items you want to have on hand to make your experience in the hospital or birthing center that much more pleasant.  Here are a few items I think are ideal to have at the ready:

  • Nursing gowns, a robe, slippers and shower shoes.  As you can imagine, hospital gowns are not the most modest or user-friendly for breastfeeding.  Having your own comfy garments can help to make you feel good, and look your best even if you are exhausted and delirious.
  • Toiletries and makeup.  It is nice to have your own cosmetics, lotions and the like to be sure if you feel like exercising your right to beauty, you have your favorites on hand for those family pictures and social media snapshots.  The hospital often provides basic toiletry items, which is nice, considering some of us forget essentials, and some less fortunate moms may not be able to afford them.
  • Massage oil and flameless candles: It goes without saying that you may be a prime recipient of a massage during labor, so having massage oil on hand is a great idea.  Your husband or Birth Doula can help ease your lower back discomfort and help you relax.  As well, the flameless candles give a nice aura of ambiance, and can provide mood lighting as you have late night nursing sessions with your new little greedy baby boy or girl.
  • Skincare and soap for baby: It is a good idea to bring your own products for baby’s first sponge bath.  Most mainstream baby care products provided by the hospital are created with petroleum-derived chemicals which have been shown to be toxic and cancer-causing.  Opting for organic and non-toxic brands will safeguard your precious little one from this harmful exposure risk.dna miracles three
  • Nipple cream, nursing bras, nursing cover(when guests visit), and nursing pads.
  • Prenatal vitamins: You are going to want to keep up your regimen to be sure that you maintain optimal health and ensure you are getting essential nutrients for breastfeeding and healthy skin, hair and nails.
  • Comfortable panties: This goes without saying, but you can be sure that you are going to be in need of some comfy, stretchy undies to accommodate your post-pregnancy physique.
  • Belly compression band: This is a great garment that can be worn right after delivery to provide belly support, improve posture and c-section incision support.  It can expedite your midsection recovery after a c-section, and assist you in moving about comfortably after delivery and surgery.
  • Cellphone and tablet chargers
  • Video camera: You want to be sure that you can capture those special moments, like family and siblings meeting your new little one for the first time.  Make sure it’s charged and the memory is empty.  You don’t want to run out of space to film.
  • Journal and pen to jot down those special thoughts and memories of your experience.
  • Two going home outfits for you and baby (you want to have options).
  • Car seat, diaper bag and baby blanket (it’s good to pack extra tote bags to bring home any free hospital goodies and gifts from well-wishers)

These are just a list of items that I think are essential to providing you with what you need to ensure that you are prepared for the arrival of your little one.  Moreover, you also have to consider what to expect while engaging with the physicians, staff and caregivers during your stay.  It can be very intimidating and daunting as you interact with clinicians and caregivers from multiple disciplines as they coordinate the care for both you and your baby.  You may find yourself wondering who is this person, and what could possibly be next in this birth and postpartum experience.  For this reason, I will dedicate the next Labor of Love blog post to describe how you can best communicate with, and understand all the different labor and delivery, and pediatric personnel, along with their specific roles and responsibilities in providing you and your family with optimal care and attention.

Please be sure to subscribe, share this post, and stay tuned for more great information on this and other topics relevant to all the Magnificent Mommies and families out there.

If you have a tip that can help fellow moms make the labor and delivery experience more enjoyable, please share and comment below.

Stay Healthy & Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Family Life, Female Reproductive Health, Health & Wellness, Pregnancy

Surviving a Threatened Miscarriage

surviving I know firsthand what it is like to be bewildered as to what is happening with your body as you are presented with the idea that you are in fact in jeopardy of losing your baby to miscarriage. It happened to us in the fall of 2014 when we had just found out we were in fact expecting our third child. All within 48 hours we had not only learned we were pregnant, but within a day, we found ourselves sitting in our local emergency room, as I was experiencing symptoms of a miscarriage. Something fortunately, that up until that day, we had never endured. We were on an emotional roller coaster. A day prior, we were in shock, elated, and excited about our new bundle of joy that was on it’s way. Now we were in a state of disbelief. Concerned that all the joys of yesterday’s discovery were about to come to a crashing halt. My diagnosis – a threatened miscarriage.  Something I had never heard of. So what did this mean for me? For us?

As it was explained, and from what my own research illuminated is that a threatened miscarriage is a common occurrence in 1 in 5 pregnancies (Sotiriadis, Papatheodorou, & Makrydimas, 2004). From this, a woman will experience a bleeding episode(s) prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy (Sotiriadis, Papatheodorou, & Makrydimas, 2004). Moreover, a threatened miscarriage can lead to a woman being prescribed bed rest, medication to help sustain the pregnancy, careful monitoring with ultrasound, or in some tragic cases, a miscarriage occurs (Sotiriadis, Papatheodorou, & Makrydimas, 2004). The emergency room doctor recommended that I follow up with my doctor immediately, and schedule an ultrasound. But we had to wait a few grueling weeks to get that ultrasound to check for a fetal heartbeat. When the episode happened for us, it was too early on in the pregnancy to detect a heartbeat. Not only until I spoke directly with my Obstetrician/Gynecologist’s nurse did I have true clarity as to where we stood in the pregnancy. She assured me that all was not lost, and to wait until the ultrasound, as that would provide us with a definitive answer as to whether or not the pregnancy was viable.

Finally the day came, and from that ultrasound, it not only detected an intact fetal sac, but also a heartbeat.  We were blessed and in the clear! We were so excited, and fortunate that we were able to continue planning for the arrival of our new addition to our young family. Due to the circumstances of the threatened miscarriage diagnosis, I did have to attend several ultrasound appointments throughout the pregnancy to monitor the growth and development of our baby. Fortunately, I never had another frightening episode during the pregnancy, and felt solace in knowing that even though we experienced a traumatic event, we came through it all together, as a family, and kept the faith.

From this experience, I encourage all women, mothers and families to remain open to the possibilities that things will work out the way that is best for you and your family.  Even during your most dire and seemingly hopeless moments in life, blessings can abound and the Creator will always manifest the rich destiny that is your own.

We will be blessed to welcome our little one in late July!

The reality is that some families are not as fortunate. And for those who do experience a loss, it can obviously cause immeasurable pain and grief. Accordingly, it is vital for those women and families to seek support from loved ones and any support networks that they feel comfortable with. It’s advisable to talk to their health care provider to locate a support group or grief counselor in their community.

Have you endured a difficult pregnancy experience and would like to share and inspire other moms and families? If so, I welcome you to post your comments in the section below.

Stay Healthy and Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

*Disclaimer: This commentary is not to be utilized as medical advice. Please consult a licensed health care provider for any healthcare needs.

Reference

Sotiriadis, A., Papatheodorou, S., & Makrydimas, G. (2004). Threatened miscarriage: evaluation and management. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 329(7458), 152–155
Breastfeeding, Parenting, Quality of Life

The Real Deal on Co-sleeping and Bed-sharing.

There is nothing like the feeling of the soft, supple, warm skin of your little one. It is so intoxicating that many parents appreciate it every night, as they sleep together as a family in the same bed. Now some parents, child rearing experts, and pediatricians may scoff at the practice of bed-sharing, but indeed, it is a common practice among many families, and for many cultures worldwide, it is the norm.

In fact, it is important to provide a distinction between bed-sharing and co-sleeping.  Bed-sharing involves exactly what the word indicates – sharing the adult bed or sleeping surface with your infant or toddler (Matlock-Carr & Ward, 2015).  On the contrary, co-sleeping means that you are sharing the same sleeping quarters, where your baby is in the same room, in their own bed/bassinet.  Or you may be using a co-sleeping bed that is fashioned to attach to the adult bed, providing a dedicated space for the baby, that is separate, but physically adjoined to the adult bed (Matlock-Carr & Ward, 2015).

We began sharing our bed with our daughter immediately. It just felt natural, and even though we had a bassinet for her near our bed, after nighttime nursing sessions, she and I both would fall asleep skin to skin. It was a delightfully divine experience that built upon the love the we share for one another. Interestingly, we shared our bed as a family until our daughter was 2 1/2. bed-sharing was the way of life for us, even when I had stopped breastfeeding.

We stopped bed-sharing cold turkey as a result of my travels out of state for a conference, and my best friend’s bridal shower. While out of town, my husband was presented with the opportunity to reintroduce our daughter to her lovely crib and bedroom. She had recently begun asking us to sleep in her own bed, which she had only slept in for afternoon naps. It’s funny, I had to leave the state for our daughter to sleep in her own bed! Oh well, whatever works.

Many parents manage to successfully bed-share around the globe, with limited incidence of harm. Equally important, the practice of bed-sharing is not without risk. Infants may be put at risk for suffocation, strangulation, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Homer, Armari, & Fowler, (2012). However, most families enjoy the experience and share their joy of bed-sharing.  it is important to note that the academic research has indicated that many of the unfortunate accidents involving unsafe sleeping with infants has occurred when infants were sleeping on couches, in chairs, and with adults who were inebriated on illicit drugs or alcohol (Matlock-Carr & Ward, 2015).

Here are some recommendations to consider for safer bed-sharing:

  • Make sure your bed frame and headboard are not hazardous, especially metal frames.
  • Parents taking sedating medications or other controlled substances should avoid co-sleeping
  • Consider dressing your baby in one piece pajamas instead of using a blanket
  • Don’t let them sleep alone in an adult bed to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Keep baby away from waterbeds, excessive pillows, blankets, and drapery
  • Try a co-sleeping bassinet. They offer the best of both worlds, as the drop-side securely attaches to the side of an adult bed.

Research into co-sleeping indicates that in spite of the potential risks, there are actual benefits to the practice, including a reduced risk of SIDS, and let’s not forget the exponential emotional aspects of the co-sleeping experience. With that said, it is up to you to as a parent to use common sense, talk to your pediatrician, and make the choice that best suits your family. At the end of the day, you know what feels right.

Sweet Dreams!

Stay Healthy & Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

References

Homer, C., Armari, E., & Fowler, C. (2012). Bed-sharing with infants in a time of SIDS awareness. Neonatal, Paediatric & Child Health Nursing, 15(2), 3-7.

Matlock-Carr, N. L., & Ward, K. S. (2015). Helping parents make informed decisions regarding bed-sharing. International Journal Of Childbirth Education, (1), 77.

Edited by Darryl J. Abrams

Emotional Health, Family Life, Parenting, Quality of Life

Yikes! I feel overwhelmed. 5 Tips to Help You Manage It All as a Busy Mom

What is the magic formula for maintaining your sanity while handling everything that you are responsible for on a daily basis?  Well I am not sure myself…I just wing it!  But seriously, I have those moments where it is a challenge to keep everything flowing smoothly as I attempt to manage my motherly and wifely duties.  It can get hectic.  And with my ever-growing family (baby number three on the way), I feel as if I am constantly working (tirelessly) to keep it all together.Purestock_1574R-01570A.thumbnail

Here are some strategies that both working moms and stay-at-home moms can employ to make our days, weeks, and months flow smoother?:

  1. Enlist the help of your allies: Anyone who offers you assistance, take them up on it.  If they can transport the children to an activity, help you with planning, or just give you an extra set of hands around the house; thank them immensely and show your appreciation.
  2. Incorporate time saving measures when available: For instance, if you can shop online for many of your household staples, and save money doing so – go for it!  Sites like Shop.com can ship bulk organic grocery items, household cleaning items and more from your favorite big box retailers like Target, Macy’s, Home Depot, Wal-mart and more.  What’s also cool about Shop.com, is that you can earn CASHBACK on all purchases!  Online shopping is really helpful as you can do it of course anywhere, and at anytime from the comfort of your own home or mobile device.  What mom doesn’t need more time and ways to save money!
  3. Plan your meals and stock up on snacks for the children: It can seem tedious, but planning your meals for the week and building up to planning for the month can make a world of difference when it comes to feeding your family.  Imagine not having to spend time scratching your head standing in front of the fridge or freezer while everyone complains that they are hungry and ask in unison; “What’s for dinner?”.  It can be a challenge to be creative on a daily basis.  Check your local library or bookstore for cookbooks or checkout your favorite cooking shows to garner new meal ideas.  Moreover, buying in bulk can help you keep your pantry and freezer staples at the ready.  Items like organic brown rice, pasta, beans, sauces, and flour are great foundations to build upon when making homemade pancake mix, biscuits, and flavorful one dish meals.  When it comes to snacks, there is always a need to have healthful foods at the ready to quench your family’s hunger in between meals.  This will also provide your child’s friends and young family members with nutritious foods to eat when visiting.
  4. Establish a routine for daily and weekly tasks: Family can help make the load a little lighter.  If you are fortunate like me, your hubby is extremely open to help, and take initiative around the house.  Children can learn valuable skills of self-sufficiency in doing chores.  You can make it fun with a game, race or incentive for getting it all done.
  5. Make time for what’s important: It’s all to easy to take your loved ones for granted.  We have to spend time with one another when we are not feeling burdened or distracted with all of our seemingly endless responsibilities.  Set a date night with your hubby a few times a month if you can.  Sneak some precious moments with each of your children, as well as fun group activities.  Moreover, some quality time with friends and extended family can renew your spirit as well.  We cannot get so lost in our daily duties that we forget to breathe and embrace who and what makes our lives so special.

These are just a few tips that can help to recharge your batteries and help to keep you more focused, and feel better about managing it all.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed…trust me I know.  I have to be mindful and sure to follow my own advice.

We deserve to live our best lives and enjoy this wondrously hectic ride called parenthood.

What do you do to stay organized on a daily basis?  Please share with us!

Stay Healthy & Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Edited by Darryl Abrams

Emergency Preparedness, Family Life, Health & Wellness, Nutrition, Quality of Life

Survive, Thrive & Stay Alive: Prepping Your Pantry & Kitchen for An Emergency

In the event of a natural or man made disaster it is obvious that some of the creature comforts that we enjoy may cease for a short or extended period of time.

A simple drive to the grocery store for the staples like eggs, bread and almond milk may prove impossible, or unrealistic. So what must you do to ensure that your family is fed nutritious, consistent meals as your community or our society rebounds from disaster?

It pays to be prepared, so now is the time to begin building your pantry for not just a potential emergency, but also for self-sustainability.

SuperStock_1098R-5165.thumbnail

Here are some things you can do now to prepare:

Stock up on bottled water.  That goes without saying.

Add a lot of beans and legumes to your pantry, as they will provide you with high quality vegetable protein. You can store both dried and canned beans. You can prepare a lot of stews, soups, and casseroles with a diverse array of beans.

One essential tool in your kitchen is a bread maker.  Bread makers are nice as they allow you to of course make breads, and you can also make doughs for pizza, donuts and croissants.  You can make these items ahead of time and freeze them for later use.  Begin experimenting now to find your sweet spot. As long as you have yeast, flour, salt, sugar and oil, you can make a traditional loaf of bread. The machine does all the work for you! If the grocery store is inaccessible, and you have electricity, nothing can stop you. Fresh bread is yours every day.

More Essential Tools of the Trade:

  • Deep freezer
  • High quality blender or food processor
  • Electric pressure cooker (high capacity 10 quarts)
  • Shelving to store your goods
  • Canning supplies to preserve your garden harvest
  • Foodsaver vacuum sealer

Visit your local warehouse club and buy these items in bulk:

  • Meats
  • Nut or rice milk
  • Organic rice
  • Organic sugar
  • Organic flour
  • Maple syrup
  • Pasta
  • Tomato paste
  • Frozen fruits and veggies
  • Coffee beans

Lastly, to really shore up your emergency food stash, you could purchase foods that have an extensive shelf life; like survival foods.  Legacy Foods offers NON-GMO varieties that can last up to 25 years.  Proudly, they are made right here in the USA!

If you are like me, many of these kitchen appliances and tools you may already own. The key is to maintain self sufficiency, and adequate food stores in times of uncertainty like a natural or man made disaster.  Or better yet, just for everyday survival.  It always pays to have food and supplies on hand, no matter what.

I hope this information can help you and your family consider ways to improve your self sufficiency and gain piece of mind in times of uncertainty.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Edited by Darryl J. Abrams

Breastfeeding, Emergency Preparedness, Family Life, Health & Wellness, Parenting, Quality of Life

Survive, Thrive & Stay Alive: Tools to Keep Your Family Safe in an Emergency

NPM_logo_CMYKIn observance of National PrepareAthon! Day today, I want to share with you some of the tools and strategies that every family should have in their arsenal as they prepare their toolkit for emergency preparedness.

Having a toolkit and plan for emergencies is vital to your family’s safety, health and wellbeing in times of chaos and uncertainty that can strike without warning. By planning ahead, you can have piece of mind when a natural, or man made disaster occurs. Now you may not think you live somewhere that is not likely to be vulnerable to the wrath of Mother Nature, or man made disasters like acts of terrorism. I would challenge you to think again. For most of us it is not IF something will happen…but WHEN it will happen.

Just to drive this point home a little more, let’s not forget the countless incidences of hurricanes, tornadoes, extended power outages, wildfires, acts of terrorism and resultant civil unrest which may appear as isolated events, but are more common in this country than we think. And as a society, it appears that both the domestic and international political climate is becoming more and more volatile, which threatens both our sovereignty and national security. Moreover, biological, chemical, and nuclear threats are ever present; with the potential outbreak of virulent infectious diseases like Ebola looming, which can devastate a population.

Someone said failing to plan is planning to fail. For this reason, disaster and emergency planning can afford you peace of mind in knowing you have a plan, and that your family can Survive, Thrive & Stay Alive if disaster strikes.

Here are several key ways to prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best:

Food, Water and Medical Supplies
You cannot survive without adequate food and water. So this is at the top of your list. You have to have at least enough food and water for 3-4 days for each member of your household. Ideally, you should strive to stockpile 3-4 months worth.  You can begin stockpiling by placing canned goods and other non perishables in a plastic bin that can securely store the food; preventing water infiltration and corrosion. If you want more long term food stores, and you should, you can purchase freeze-dried emergency foods that have an average shelf-life of 25 years. Legacy Foods is currently the only non-gmo survival food company that I know of.  They may be a great option to consider for longer-term emergency food supplies.

Water is essential, therefore you should have at least 3 gallons of potable water, per person/per day; even more when you consider bathing.  And of course you need to add any medicines that are prescribed for your loved ones.

When it comes to your children, breastfeeding is a vital aspect of your preparedness plan.  By breastfeeding, you can ensure that your infant’s meals will not be compromised.  Your baby is guaranteed clean, pure nutritious sustenance without interruption.  Even in times of stress and duress, a mother can produce sufficient milk to nourish her baby.

Communication & Safe Rendezvous Point
You have to keep your family in constant communication as best possible during an emergency. But what if the cell phone and landline communications are compromised? This is a HIGHLY likely scenario. So what do you do? Well you need to have a plan of action that keeps communication flowing.

First, set up a safe comfortable place to retreat to during an emergency.  This location should serve as a rendezvous point for ALL family to retreat to that is easy to get to, and is most likely to be farthest away from a potential threat. For example, our home is more inland, and further from downtown and the lake. In thinking about terrorism, downtown would be a likely target, and a natural disaster is more likely to strike the nearest body of water. This makes our home the best location for the entire family to “bug out” in an emergency.

In recent disasters, even though cell phone calls could not be placed, text messaging worked. So this allows for communication. As well, you should designate a reliable out of town family member as a point of contact for everyone. This will help keep everyone that is impacted by the event in contact and serve as a base camp to communicate vital information.

Safety and Security

It is imperative that you are able to protect your family during an emergency situation.  If there is a breakdown in society for any given amount of time as a result of a natural or man made disaster, that means that the safety and security of your family WILL be at stake.  With that said, it is necessary to prepare to defend yourself and your family by force.  Responsible adults should consider to be trained in self defense measures that include martial arts and weaponry.  Not to sound grim, but having these skills and access to weapons can make the difference between life and death.  My motto is, that you would rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.

Cash and Essential Documents

You have to have a form of currency that will be useful to you . Therefore, you have to keep a reserve of cash as the banks will likely be closed, and therefore you won’t have access to your money.  This means no ATMs, no EBT SNAP benefits, and no use of debit or credit cards.  Cash will be king, so have several hundred dollars, if not more, as you have no clue as to how long you may be managing your survival after a disaster or emergency.  Do you think victims of Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina thought they would be without the comforts of life that we take for granted for weeks, if not months?

Moreover, you should have copies of birth and marriage certificates, social security cards, passports and government IDs in your emergency pack.  These items can be damaged or missplaced during a disaster, so copies will be extremely important, along with photographs of your family members that can assist in reunification efforts.

In conclusion, the length, nature and severity of a disaster is unpredictable.  So as parents and caregivers, it behooves us to prepare.  Speak to your children’s school to find out their emergency plans.  Find out how you will coordinate everyone you love, in ensuring that everyone is on board, and at least has preparedness on their radar.  Failing to plan is planning to fail, and I want all of us to have a fighting chance to Survive, Thrive & Stay Alive™.

Stay Health, Wealthy and Wise,

Love,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Breastfeeding, Emergency Preparedness, Health & Wellness, Nutrition, Parenting

Breastfeeding as a Part of Your Emergency Preparedness Plan

Unfortunately in this sometimes volatile world we live in, we may become subjected to the impact of a devastating natural or man-made disaster. Hurricanes, extended power outages, tornadoes, earthquakes and acts of terror are becoming far too common. In these instances there may be a total breakdown of normalcy, compromised public health and safety, and poor or nonexistence clean water and food supplies. With the safety and survival of your family at the forefront of everything in these situations – breastfeeding mothers have an added advantage.

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Breastfeeding is the only feeding choice that provides uninterrupted, safe, nutrition for your growing infant or toddler during a disaster situation. Infants and small children are the most vulnerable to diarrhea, infectious disease and dehydration; common conditions that can result in increased mortality risk, which can manifest due to challenges to maintaining sanitation and the result of close living quarters and make-shift shelters and hospitals that are prevalent during disaster situations.

Consider this – even during times of physical and emotional stress, nursing moms can maintain an adequate milk supply to nourish their child. This was once debatable. But now proven to be true.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are numerous benefits to breastfeeding during a disaster situation:

  • Human milk is nutritionally perfect.
  • It is readily available without depending on feeding supplies.
  • It protects against infectious disease, especially diarrhea and respiratory illnesses.
  • It is always the right temperature, and helps to prevent hypothermia.
  • The release of hormones during breastfeeding relieves a mom’s stress and anxiety.

Now if you find that you need to express your milk, and their is a loss of power, you can do so manually. However, if you want to prepare for the need to express your milk during a disaster using your electric breast pump; ensure that you have the proper batteries as part of the battery stores in your family’s emergency preparedness kit. As well, you should have sterile cleansing products that accompany your brand of breast pump. Even though expressing and storing your milk under these conditions is far from ideal, but if you have too, be sure to place the milk on ice as soon as possible, or follow the temperature storage guidelines for times when immediate refrigeration is not an option.

Who knows, you may become an unsung hero and pull a Salma Hayek. Nursing or milk-sharing to help rescue a deserving baby whose mom opted to formula feed and has no access to clean water, bottles, and/or formula to feed her child.

I am hopeful that by reading this, you begin the all too important dialogue with your family as to how to best prepare for an emergency scenario. These that could turn your life upside down. Its hard to imagine that these catastrophic events can and do occur. It’s even more difficult to consider your family having to endure such an event. However, I am hopefully that those of us who plan and prepare, will likely emerge triumphant and unscathed.

Not sure who said this, but “those who fail to plan, plan to fail”, and this adage most certainly rings true in the case of emergency preparedness planning for your family.

Breastfeeding during disasters saves lives. So moms, we have yet another reason to be proud of our choice to provide our children with the best nutrition possible – breast milk, the ultimate gift of love and life.

Stay Health and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Breastfeeding, Female Reproductive Health, Politics

D-Cups & Double-Standards: An Essay on The Politics of Breastfeeding in America

August is over, and we have just concluded another successful World Breastfeeding Week, National Breastfeeding Month, and the second annual celebration of Black Breastfeeding Week.  So of course, I have been postulating a lot about breastfeeding, the politics of breastfeeding in this country, and any and all things breasts.  The subsequent essay outlines my musings.

I absolutely love my breasts. And if you are a woman reading this, you should love your breasts too.  If you are a man, I may already know how you feel about breasts.Mother Breast Feeding Her Child
I know, I get it. Breasts are beautiful, glorious, life sustaining entities with an ornamental quality bestowed upon them. They should be revered, and downright worshiped in my opinion. I appreciate mine because they have provided our children with the most nutritious sustenance known to mankind. Breast milk is the best, and only biologically suitable first food for humans.  It provides irreplicable immune-boosting properties, and customized nutrition, at the perfect temperature in an easily transportable, eco-friendly package.  It can’t get better than that.

New discoveries abound that highlight the phenomenal health aspects of breast milk.  The medical community, even today, continues to learn about the healing and nutritive attributes of breast milk.  So if as a society we are perfectly clear on the benefits of breastfeeding, and breast milk, why do so many Americans get their panties in a bunch when a mother breastfeeds in public, at her college graduation, or on an airplane?

Now I know some folks may be uncomfortable looking at the ample bustline of a woman, but based on the latest beer, car, cheeseburger and men’s magazine advertisements, and the ever lucrative adult entertainment industry, I think I can beg to differ…

Governmental Politics of Breastfeeding: The Oval Office Weighs-In

Families who choose to breastfeed have significant support from The White House, Office of the Surgeon General and the Women’s Infant and Children (WIC)* Program, which provides breastfeeding peer support and education.  This is great considering that this federal legislation affords all of us to enjoy the benefits secured by federal law.  Most notable  is the recently enacted Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate that requires employers with >50 staff persons to provide a clean, private area (that is not a bathroom) for a mother to express her milk while at work, along with reasonable break time to do so.  Moreover, ACA requires insurance companies to provide breastfeeding equipment, supplies and support at no additional cost to the insurance holder.  These groundbreaking laws underscore the understanding from our legislators that breastfeeding should be protected, and supported within institutions throughout our society so that families are supported in their decision, and structural barriers are reduced.

Breasts as Public Enemy Number One (Oops…I mean two)

Even more interesting is the every prominent focus on women’s breasts as they relate to breast cancer, and breast cancer risk management.  Many women are rightfully concerned about the growing incidence rates of breast cancer, self-exams, mammography, genetic testing and other cancer detection and risk reduction measures.  Some women, notably those in the celebrity limelight like Angelina Jolie, have succumbed to the pressure exerted by the medical establishment to undergo surgery to mitigate the potential for a future cancer diagnosis.  This tunnel vision focus on breasts, and their potential for disease manifestation also presents a new conundrum for the objectification of the breast, and the compartmentalization of the body, and its parts as it relates to disease in general.

To be clear, I am in no way minimizing the reality of cancer, its scourge on the afflicted, and the resultant opportunity cost to those directly, and indirectly impacted by its wrath.  What I desire in this conversation is to generate dialogue around the best ways to encourage, prevent and promote a healthy way of life that includes loving oneself enough to know how to make the best choices for yourself and family.  Breastfeeding is protective against some forms of breast cancer, cancer of the uterus and ovaries.  And the longer a woman breastfeeds, the more she reduces her risk.

Changing Our Mindset

When thinking about disease and healing, we should be concerned about the whole body, and the synergy that abounds within it.  I would posit that one should ask is the medical-ized view of breasts and breast-disease misguided?  Should we be focused on reducing exposures to known cancer-causing agents in our diets, environments, personal care products and lifestyle?  Should we not focus so much on a potential threat, when there is evidence and proof that we can reduce risk by making a shift towards the positive and healthful lifestyle choices.

In conclusion, my musings are nothing more than a valid injection of dialogue around the politics of breastfeeding, the medical-ization of breast health and womanhood.  We have to remain open-minded and share our thoughts and opinions in order to upgrade our mindset, to the benefit of ourselves and humanity.  Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural expression of love that only a mother can bestow upon her child.  And as we move toward embracing that which personifies harmony with nature, then maybe we can heal, and stave off the culture of disease, and manifestation of dis-ease that so permeates our society; diminishing our quality of life, and cutting short the precious time we have with those we love.

Stay Healthy & Wise

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

*(The WIC program (Women Infants and Children) provides low-income mothers, infants and children up to the age of 5 who are deemed at nutritional-risk, with supplemental food, infant formula, breastfeeding counseling and equipment, and referrals to social services and medical care. )

 Disclaimer: This information is purely educational, and is not a substitute for the care and consult of a licensed health care provider.

Entrepreneurship, Family Life, Quality of Life

The Maternity Leave Entrepreneur™

Purestock_1574R-01607B.thumbnail How many of you moms dream of breaking away from the rat race, and having the freedom to spend more time at home with your growing family by starting your own home-based business? Well, for many of us, once we go on maternity leave and get a taste of the good life (between 3:00 am feedings and poopy diapers) our minds may begin working overtime on how we can fast track our entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

Let’s examine how can you maximize this time away from your day job to bring your business ideas to fruition so that you can deliver that resignation letter – ASAP.

Do Your Research
It’s likely that you already have an idea as to what kind of business venture that you want to pursue. However, every conscientious business owner stays on top of the trends in their market.  So be sure to follow the latest stats on growth and challenges in your respective marketplace.

When choosing to step out as a business owner, you may opt to go maverick, and bring a fresh new idea to market, or select a proven business model, like a franchise or multilevel marketing business.  You must decide what works best for you, your family, and your lifestyle.

A great place to begin researching how to start a business is the Small Business Administration, or SBA.  They have a plethora of free resources for entrepreneurs.  This includes tools and information specifically for women and minority business owners.  As well as loans; tips for contracting with the government; and local offices that offer business coaching, and business plan assistance.

As well, you should visit your local library to get books on starting your business.  There are always current materials that you can reference to help you build your foundation for business success.  There are even magazines that highlight the latest trends in franchising.

Getting Set-Up

Next, contact the office of the Secretary of State and learn how to register your business and business name. Depending upon the nature of your business, you may choose between several designation categories. Ideally you should have learned which designation will ensure that you are afforded the best legal protections and benefits for your business.  Next, you will apply for your free tax ID number or EIN number from the IRS.  Once done with this mission, you can take these documents to your local bank or credit union and open your business account.

Moreover, you want to get paid, so that may involve signing up with a merchant account for credit card processing.  This can be for both online, and point of sale purchases.  This will allow you to make sales through your website as well as when you are in front of your customer, using either a mobile credit card reader or mobile app.  Shop around to find the best rates.

Trademarks, Copyrights and Intellectual Property

If you have a unique name, logo or other intellectual property (curricula, presentations, etc.) that you want to protect, it is wise to register these items with your state, and potentially the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or U.S. Copyright Office.  From this, you will safeguard your materials from infringement, and you can also present these documents, if ever needed in a court of law.

Your Business…Online

You will likely want to establish an online presence for your business with a website.  Social media outlets can also be utilized to build a buzz and generate leads for potential clients.  If you offer direct services, or produce products, you may even consider signing on to a flash sale website to get exposure and gain new clients.  These websites usually offer daily deals, but not without a steep discount.  You have to decide if you can absorb the cost, for the potential of gaining new customers.

Get Out There

Network.  Network.  Network.  Polish-up your Linkedin profile.  Seek out the guidance of a mentor who is a seasoned entrepreneur.  It is always good to have the ear of someone experienced in running a business.

Don’t Burn Bridges

So if you do make the decision to resign from your day job while on maternity leave, be sure you and your spouse or partner are on the same page.  Discuss this idea with them before you and the baby make that final trip to the office to turn in your letter of resignation.  I know the feeling of anticipation and excitement, but you don’t want to blind-sight your number one ally.

Lastly, you want to do everything with class and grace.  Therefore, you should inform your employer sooner than later once you’ve decided that you are not going to return to work.  It is highly recommended that you read over the human resources policies on maternity leave so that you are clear as to whether or not you may owe the sick leave, and/or vacation time to your employer if you leave prior to the end of your maternity leave. Every company and organization’s policies are different, so be sure to read the fine print and don’t be afraid to ask any questions you might have regarding this matter,  so that you’ll know what to expect when  submitting that letter of resignation.  Oh…and what a glorious day that will be!

Stay Healthy, Wealthy & Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams

Public Health Practitioner

Ericka is a wife, mother, and Maternity Leave Entrepreneur™.  She is also a public health practitioner, Certified Lactation Counselor, professor and member of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board of Education.  You can learn more about her by visiting her website at restorethevillage.org.

Education, Politics

Mayor Jackson Delivers Oath of Office to Two New Cleveland School Board Members

Source: CIty of Cleveland
Ericka L. Abrams comments on her appointment to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board of Education 5/12/14, Source: City of Cleveland, Office of the Mayor

Mayor Jackson Delivers Oath of Office to Two New Cleveland School Board Members.

Family Life, Parenting, Quality of Life

3 Simple Ways to a Super Summer!

Purestock_1574R-01660B.thumbnailSummer vacation is right around the corner, and if you are like me, you are probably putting plans in place to make the most of this enjoyable, and eventful season of the year.

In planning for summertime fun, there are so many things to consider.  We often think of ways to keep our family busy, safe and engaged throughout the summer months.  You can have a blast.  Just be mindful to bask in the glory of summer; take it all in, as the fun can be fleeting, and before you know it, its time for back-to-school!

In summertime, you may not be waking up early in the morning to your normal hustle and bustle; to shuttle the children off to school.  But instead, you may be sending them to summer camps.  Or you may opt to take a less structured approach, with plans to sleep-in on many-a-morning (ahhh…). Either way, the summer season tends to usher in a mood of relaxation and leisure. So let’s talk about how to make the most out of this time, and how you can be their summer vacation (s)hero!

1. Keep Them Busy

Many cities have a variety of summer camps and activities that fit inline with your child’s hobbies, and Purestock_1574R-04408.thumbnailareas of interest.  Some camp experiences are full, or half-day.  Half-day options leave you room to build other activities into your week.  Recreation centers, art, dance, sports, and martial arts programs are available in many communities.  Even museums, aquariums, and local universities have programs tailored for school-age children on summer break. Check with your library, YMCA, United Way, local family magazines, school systems and private schools for camp and program information.  Lastly, inquire about scholarships or income-based payment plans, which may be available to make camp affordable and accessible for families of all walks of life.

2. Enjoy Family Time

This is very important, as we are often very immersed in our everyday grind of work, school, and extracurricular activities, that we don’t have the luxury of enjoying downtime as family for extended periods of time.  Summertime can afford many of us the opportunity to steal away precious family time.  This time can be spent enjoying a stay-cation in your own backyard, or exploring the sights and sounds of your city at a festival, carnival, park, or beach (if you’re lucky).  You may even have a few out of town trips planned to visit family and friends.  Either way, these moments will build lasting memories, so make it happen.

3. Snack Time Made Simple

If some or most of your summer days are unstructured, then it may be nice to still have a semblance of a routine.  Even if its just a way for mom and/or dad to maintain their sanity.  Having snacks at the ready is one way to inject some structure, encourage independence in your child, and minimize the times you will have to get off the deck chair. This tip can make mornings a little less hectic too. We keep a stash of snacks on the kitchen table and fridge in a special section just for our daughter. When she wakes up, she can grab and go.  She then heads right to our bedroom, where she curls up to catch an episode of her favorite morning cartoon.  Not long after, we all get up and head down for breakfast.

Keep grab n’ go items like fresh fruit, string cheese, granola or fig bars, and single serve yogurt, water, juice or organic milks (rice, almond, and hemp milks work well too) in a special section in the fridge just for them.  You can pre-slice the fruit and cheese, and place them in containers or baggies, along with drinks in beverage containers to make these snacks more economical.  Buy these items in bulk at a wholesale club, or sign up with your local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and get a weekly foodshare of produce from local farms.  As well, you can visit farmers’ markets for fresh produce.  This is a great way to enjoy the summer harvest, benefit local farmers, and help your little one(s) learn about nutrition, and where real food comes from.

By following these tips, it just might help you to make the most of this splendid time of year.  Now, I would be re-missed if I didn’t remind you to also make time to do something nice for yourself, and don’t forget to inject some romance in the mix too.  Its what steamy summer nights were made for.

Lastly…stay cool, stay safe, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Sincerely,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Female Reproductive Health, Labor & Delivery

Taking Back Your Birth: After Fibroid Surgery or C-Section, Can I Have a VBAC?

I am a total proponent of birth choices.  Mothers and families have the right to make the best choices for them and their children when it comes to decisions around childbirth.  Unfortunately, for those of us who feel as if we are enmeshed in the mainstream medical system, we may feel dis-empowered to question our care provider, or to remain steadfast in our beliefs.  We may fear that we will not receive the best care if we challenge our care provider’s advice, or that we don’t have the right to a second, third or fourth opinion for that matter from another medical professional.  Well the reality is, we have to take control of our bodies and our birth.  We have that right.  At the end of the day, we have to live with the repercussions of the medical choices that are made by us, or for us.

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So when it comes to the VBAC dilemma, what am I talking about?  First, let’s define VBAC.  VBAC stands for Vaginal Birth After Ceserean.  Women who have had previous reproductive surgeries, cesareans or c-sections may consider attempting a VBAC, or TOLAC.  TOLAC stands for Trial of Labor After Cesarean.  The choice often begins with a consultation with an obstetrician.  They will review your medical records from a prior surgery or c-section, and determine, based on the nature and intricacies of that surgery(s), if  you are an ideal candidate for a VBAC.

The major reason for push back on VBACs is that there is a potential risk of uterine rupture during delivery.  Many doctors, choose to be conservative in their recommendations, and encourage most patients to opt for a c-section, hoping to reduce the risk.  The medical research confirms that the risk of uterine rupture is on average at about 1%; with catastrophic uterine ruptures (that can increase the risk of fetal or maternal injury or death) ranging from 0.3 – 0.7 %.  Many doctors and pregnant mothers choose not to take the risk, albeit it small, and they move forward with a scheduled-cesarean section delivery at no earlier than 39 weeks of pregnancy.

Another challenge to mothers obtaining a VBAC are institutional.  Some hospitals are discouraged by their insurance carriers from allowing physicians the option of performing VBACs due to a perceived risk of potential malpractice litigation, in the event of a negative birth outcome.  This can obviously make it more difficult to find a doctor who will perform a VBAC.

Now the good news is, that many women who have been identified as good candidates for VBAC have an average of a 75% success rate of vaginal delivery.  However, going into this endeavor, a pregnant mom must be mindful that there is a typical VBAC/TOLAC labor & delivery protocol that many physicians follow, which may improve their birth outcomes.

Some things to mindful of in approaching the decision to pursue a VBAC:

  • Labor & delivery interventions that include the medical inducement of labor, and the use of epidurals for pain, and the drug pitocin, which will artificially induce labor contractions are not ideal to use during a VBAC.  This can actually put you on a fast track to a c-section if you labor is not progressing in the manner that your doctor would prefer.  With a VBAC, you typically have to labor naturally, with minimal, to no intervention(s).
  • Your medical provider (likely an OB doctor) will be vigilantly monitoring you and your unborn child for any signs of potential distress during labor.  This level of high alert can make laboring naturally a little stressful, so be sure that you have advocates around you – your spouse/partner, Midwife, Birth Doula, and any other support persons or family.
  • Remember to be flexible.  You obviously want to see this through and have a vaginal birth, however, the safety of both you and your child are what is most important.  So communicate your desires in a birth plan, yet remain flexible if you are counseled to pursue other measures (like a c-section) to ensure the safe delivery of your child.

As well, if you prefer, you may have the option to receive prenatal care from a Midwife up until your actual delivery date, even if your obstetrician recommends that you have a c-section delivery.

Lastly, there are some great resources available to learn more about your birth options.  A documentary film entitled “More Business of Being Born” describes challenges and triumphs around mothers and families pursuing a natural birth experience, which includes a section specifically on VBAC.  As well, the International Cesarean Awareness Network  is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve maternal-child health by preventing unnecessary cesareans through education, providing support for cesarean recovery, and promoting Vaginal Birth After Cesarean.  They can offer an abundance of information and resources in this area.

I am on the journey to discover if natural childbirth can be a reality for my family and I this time around, so I know what some of you may be going through in making this decision.  I am hopeful that this information can empower you in making an informed choice for yourself and your family.

Stay Healthy and Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

We want to hear from you! 

Have you considered a VBAC delivery, or have you successfully labored without surgical intervention?

Please respond with a comment.

Disclaimer: This information is purely educational, and is not a substitute for the care and consult of a licensed health care provider.

Agricultural Justice, Emergency Preparedness, Family Life, Nutrition, Parenting, Quality of Life

Taking Your Family Back By Channeling Your Inner Renaissance Woman

Purestock_1574R-01660B.thumbnailI have to be honest.  In recent months, I have been seriously reflecting on what is most important to me and my family.  Do we continue to stay on course with the current level of intensity of our career pursuits that maintain our focus on gaining more and more financial trappings, in the hopes that we will be happiest as we attain more and more things.  Or do we take a real step back and assess where we are, where we want to go, and ultimately what home life that we desire for our children and family?

I have to say that the more I look holistically at our current lifestyle in the rat race, the more I am repulsed by the outcomes.  We have less time to spend together during school and workdays, we are pressed to fit more and more enriching activities into our week, with less time.  And let’s not forget, we strive to feed our families healthful meals, all while managing and juggling our many responsibilities as parents and caregivers.

Interestingly, due to the economic downturn, some of us are being forced to decrease time in the workplace, causing us to spend more time at home.  This can actually be a blessing in disguise if you change your perspective on your circumstance.

So what is my suggestion to combat what I consider to be this regressive movement within our society, that is disguised as the progressive, normal way to live and raise our families?  Well to be honest, I think as women, who tend to set the tone of our family life; we need to consider going back to basics.

Here are some things that I think we can do to improve our family life, all while overcoming the current adversities that many of us are managing within our lives:

Connect to the Wisdom

Cultivate those intergenerational connections by spending time with your grandparents and extended family.  Oftentimes we miss out on quality interchange with our elders.  Our children and families can benefit immensely from these relationships.  Who better to teach you and your children valuable skills and life lessons, and share the treasures of family artifacts, stories and history that must be saved, and recorded for future generations to cherish.

Learn New Invaluable Skills

Take a class, workshop, read books or watch tutorial videos on the web to learn a new skill.  This could include: sewing, knitting, or crocheting; cooking from scratch, gardening, canning and preserving food.

If you have the space or where with all to think outside the box, check your city zoning laws if you want to raise chickens for eggs, bees for honey, or even start a small fish farm in your backyard. Teach your children these skills.  These are all actually essential elements of your emergency preparedness plan. And could prove economically fruitful as a small business opportunity, or a way for you to barter and trade with neighbors.

Many cities have community garden programs, and resources to assist with obtaining these skills and connecting with fellow residents who are also working to regain a sense of control over their destiny, all while expanding their knowledge and skill sets.  Check your local library and recreation center to see what may be available in your neighborhood.

Personally, I feel that much more fulfilled when I meet a new challenge by learning a new household skill, honing my sewing skills, or making a new meal from scratch.  I know that my family benefits from more healthful foods, more quality time with me, and the financial savings incurred from making these choices and investments into our future.

Now of course we are thankful for the modern conveniences of life, the accessibility to each other through technology, and the global community.  However, we have to be certain that we don’t lose sight of what is most important.  As so-called modern women, we need not perceive the resurrection of what may be considered as traditional homemaking skills as going backwards – this is about moving forward.  If we don’t learn skills that can allow us to survive and thrive as a family, we are doing our families a disservice.  We want our children and families to flourish into the future, and feel solace in knowing that as parents we have prepared our children to the best of our ability to be self-sufficient, critical thinkers and survivalists in these volatile, yet promising times that we live in.

We would love to hear from you!

Have you begun learning a new skill to benefit your family’s quality of life?

Stay Healthy and Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Female Reproductive Health, Health & Wellness

Fibroids: Black Women Suffering in Silence…But There is Hope

black-woman-thinking1Uterine fibroids or myomas are fibrous, non-cancerous (benign) growths that can occur within and outside of the uterine cavity.  Fibroids are considered to be a common condition affecting nearly 1 in 5 women during their childbearing years. They are usually detected during a pelvic exam or ultrasound, or when a woman describes the symptoms to her health care provider.  Even though there is no conclusive evidence as to what may cause uterine fibroids; it is clear that the presence of the hormone estrogen allows them to exist, and grow over time.  So ladies, please know that we are all at risk, as estrogen is the primary female reproductive hormone that we all have.

Many women who are diagnosed with fibroids may exhibit a myriad of symptoms that can include:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding, where there may be the passage of blood clots
  • Bleeding between menstrual periods
  • Menstrual periods that last longer than normal
  • Feelings of fullness in the lower abdomen
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Frequent urination
  • Pelvic cramping or pain during menstrual periods

Uterine fibroids disproportionately affect African American women more than  any other racial/ethnic group.  As well, women who have more body fat than normal for their size, have higher levels of estrogen which could put them at a higher risk of developing uterine fibroids.  Equally important,  what we eat is extremely relevant to our health, but what’s often overlooked is that many of the foods in which we consume today are highly estrogenic. This means that they mimic the hormone estrogen once metabolized by the body.  Exposure to these foods could increase your estrogen levels, causing complications within the body. Foods like soy, animal fats, fruits and vegetables (that are produced with pesticides), caffeine, high fat, sugary, and processed foods, as well as  beer and alcohol are prime examples.

It has also become common knowledge among health care professionals, that many products in which we use everyday can contaminate the body, as they are comprised of many chemical agents that are toxic in nature.  More specifically, personal care products like lotions, and cosmetics can put you at risk for cancer, and reproductive disorders.  These toxic chemical agents are considered to be endocrine disruptors – reeking havoc on the hormonal system of the body.

Interestingly, recent research has shown that black women have an increased risk of developing uterine fibroids, as millions of us use chemical hair relaxers.  The data suggests that the chemical responsible for fibroid growth leach into the skin through lesions and broken skin from chemical burns when the relaxer is applied to the scalp.

Now I know that beauty is pain in some instances, but come on – how much do we have to suffer for vanity?

My personal experience with uterine fibroids began when I was diagnosed in my late twenties.  It was dismissed by many a physician as a condition that countless women suffer from, and I was only offered birth control pills to treat the symptoms.  This was not an ideal option for me, as I wasn’t a big proponent of hormone-based contraception, and it ultimately didn’t work to relieve my symptoms.  Now, these symptoms can either be a minor nuisance for some women, or an all out assault on your quality of life.  If you are like me, the symptoms become increasing unbearable; and after reading everything you get your hands on about fibroids, improving your diet, losing weight, reducing stress and alcohol, and trying complementary therapies like herbs and acupuncture, followed by countless doctor visits, second, third, and fourth opinions; you finally decide that surgery is the only option.

I had waived the white flag of surrender.  I could no longer deny the fact that my condition was too far gone.  I had hoped that surgery would be the solution to help me regain some sense of normalcy in my life…and for me, it did.  I was fortunate that my husband and family were supportive, and my recovery went well.  My work life improved, as I had no more frantic or nervous moments during my workday, concerned that I would soil my clothes.  I also no longer had to run to the bathroom as often, as the weight of my uterus was now normal, and wasn’t putting pressure on my bladder.  The anxiety ended.  I was finally free.

So what can we as women do to take control of our reproductive health, and reduce our risk of developing uterine fibroids?  First off, we need to maintain a positive mindset – our thoughts control our body, so the more we remain hopeful and prayerful, the better we may feel overall.

Here are several more tips that may help to reduce your risk:                                                                         SuperStock_1329R-549.thumbnail

  1. Reduce stress and get adequate sleep
  2. Increase physical activity to maintain a healthy weight
  3. Eat more whole foods that are unprocessed, organic, local and non-genetically modified
  4. Eat less meat and animal fat
  5. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, beer and alcohol
  6. Consider wearing your hair without chemical relaxers

I hope that those of you who read this will better understand how we can be proactive about our health and do what we can within our power to improve our well-being.  Of course life isn’t perfect, and some things will happen no matter how hard we work to combat ill health, but we can find solace in knowing that we are acting in our best interest, and the best interest of our families.

For more information, support, and advocacy, the National Uterine Fibroid Foundation can help.

If you would like to share your story on how you have been impacted by uterine fibroids, we would like to hear from you.  Please leave a comment.  Thank you!

Stay Healthy and Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

References:

Soto, A.M., Chung, K.L. & Sonnenschein, C.  (1994). The pesticides endolsulfan, toxaphene, and dieldrin have estrogenic effects on human estrogen-sensitve cells. Environmental Health Prespectives 102(4); 380.383. Retrieved from, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1566957/pdf/envhper00392-0044.pdf

Wise, L.A., Palmer, J.R., Reich, D., Cozier, Y.C. & Rosenberg, L. (2012). Hair relaxer use and risk of uterine leiomyomata in African-American women. American Journal of Epidemiology. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwr351

Disclaimer: Any information provided is strictly educational and should not be considered a substitute for the advice and care of a licensed health care provider.

Emotional Health, Family Life, Quality of Life

Mommy…Reclaim Your Inner Glamazon!

If you are like me, sometimes you can get in a beauty, fitness and fashion rut.  You may feel sluggish, unlike yourself, and uninspired when it comes to jazzing up your look, hitting the gym, or igniting your fashionista fire like you used to.  Believe me, I understand.  Life’s routines, hectic schedules, demanding career obligations and of course family responsibilities can cause many a mother’s desire to maintain her Glamazon status to fizzle out.  Purestock_1574R-01523.thumbnailHowever, it is vitally important that as mothers, we maintain a sense of who we are as individuals.  Therefore, it requires us to make the extra effort (albeit tiresome at times) to keep up our beauty, fitness and style quotients.  When we do this, it not only helps us to feel our best, but our positive self-image will exude outward – positively influencing our interactions with our significant other, family, friends and colleagues.  This benefits our lives exponentially.  As many a smart man knows, when mommy is happy, the entire household is in harmony.  When the opposite occurs, the entire household is on edge.

So what can you do to reclaim your inner Glamazon?  Well, first off, I know the thought of pulling out your make-up bag, gym bag or sifting through your wardrobe may make you feel exhausted or uninspired.  But this is what you can do to get you motivated:

  • Take some much-needed time for yourself.  Use this time to catch up on your favorite style or fashion magazines for beauty and wardrobe inspiration.
  • Start eating better: Pull out that expensive juicer you purchased last year and start juicing organic fruit and veggie combinations.  This can help you feel more energized overall and motivated to reignite your healthy lifestyle.
  • Book a spa or salon appointment.  This can be your special treat that you indulge in, ONLY after you follow-thru on your first 2 workouts.sitting woman workout
  • Go shopping!  Pay a visit to the cosmetics counter, or your favorite department store or boutique.
  • Make a date with your girlfriends.  When was the last time you all have seen each other anyway?  Spending time with them can provide you with instant Glamazon energy, along with some great insight into rejuvenating your wardrobe and beauty regimen.
  • Lastly, make a date with your significant other.  After “Reclaiming Your Inner Glamazon”, you should be poised and ready to reintroduce her (be sure to refresh your lingerie collection beforehand…they will appreciate it, I’m sure).

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Life can sometimes make us feel bogged down and temporarily fizzle out our fire…but we have to take hold and rekindle the passion for ourselves, and reignite our inner Glamazon!

Stay Healthy and Wise,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner & Fellow Glamazon

Quality of Life

Mommy Get Organized & Reclaim Your Sanity!

Hi Magnificent Mommies!

Here is your official call to actwoman-surrounded-by-clutter-3-7-470-wplokion!  It’s spring and it is the perfect time to get a hold of your hectic, yet fulfilling lives and get organized!  This week, I am going to give you a few tips on how to best get rid of clutter and disorganization that may be driving you up a wall.

Now of course you make it look effortless as each day you manage to successfully get nearly everything done on your task list: 1) feed, bathe and clothe the kids; 2) spend time with your significant other; 3) prepare healthful meals; 4) help with homework and lets not forget; 5) handling your own work and/or school duties – and of course you do it all while looking gorgeous.  You make the many things that we as women do everyday look easy.  But your fellow moms know better.  You are suffering in silence; cringing at the sight of overflowing junk mail, preschool art projects from 2010 and a months worth of Sunday papers on the kitchen floor.  Put this stuff in its rightful place…and out of your face before you go out of your mind!

Below are some tips on how to reclaim your life and stay on top of those things that can easily make you crazy when they get out of hand!

  • Attack cluttered areas room by room so that you are not overwhelmed.  Even enlist the help of the kiddos in sorting the mess. Invest in a shredder, or dust off the one in the home office and begin getting rid of all that unnecessary paperwork.  Items that don’t contain personal information, just dump it in the recycling bin.  (Just be sure to use the shredder in a safe place where the kiddies cannot access it.  Shredders pose a serious threat of injury to small children and pets).
  • Check the pantry and the fridge and discard expired items or donate those foods that you are never going to eat to your local food bank or church.  Those granola bars that you thought would be tasty…no one in your house happened to like them, so why not take them to work for your co-workers to enjoy.
  • Pack up the winter clothes.  Surely those size 3-T pants no longer fit your little prince or princess so pack them up to donate to a deserving young family, or save them if your family is still growing.  And if you haven’t yet worn that outfit you bought on clearance in 2009, donate it to women’s shelter.  It’s just taking up space for that new sundress you have been lusting for.
  • We often neglect our wheels, so get your car washed and detailed.  If you are lucky like me, your hubby will gladly do it.  It is amazing how many crumbs are in that car seat, so wash the car seat covers and wipe off that unidentifiable substance growing in the crevices of the seat.
  • Do the heavy spring cleaning when no one is home.  Lets admit it, its hard to clean when you have a house full, and your little one is constantly taking toys out of the toy box.  If you can only do this on a weekend day, see if granny can watch the kiddos, and send your guy out – or enlist his help if he is willing.  Or if you can, take a vacation day during the week to get down and dirty with the vacuum, mop and furniture polish.  Once everyone is out of the house for the day, get started immediately.  Once done, treat yourself to something nice for enduring this torturous act.  A bubble bath and glass of wine.  A spa treatment.  Take a trip to the mall before the kids are done with school.  Or take a moment to veg out with your favorite book, magazine, or guilty pleasure.  Go ahead, dine al fresco with a late lunch at a nearby cafe.  You deserve it!

Now I know it can be difficult to stay on top of everything for many ambitious moms nowadays.  We have so many things and people that we are responsible for and our task list can appear infinite.  Of course, it does take some work and planning to keep clutter and disorganization at bay.  However, if we make small improvements in the organization and management of our home environment we can see clearer, be more relaxed and feel more in control…so its all worth it.  Your home is your sanctuary; a place to decompress, be yourself and enjoy your family.  Making the effort to focus on preserving the order of this special place benefits everyone, especially you mommy!

Happy Spring Cleaning!

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

P.S. I’d much rather sit on a cactus than clean my house, so I can totally relate to those of you who are throwing imaginary daggers at me for writing this article. 😉

Breastfeeding, Health & Wellness, Parenting

Child Abuse & Breastfeeding: How Breastfeeding Reduces the Risk

Medical research confirms what many breastfeeding mothers already know.  Breastfeeding is protective in nature.  A body of scholarly research indicates that, breastfed infants are less likely to experience abuse; at the hands of their mother.  This is very compelling evidence.  And it does seem to make sense when you think about it.

1574R-02207C A 15-year study out of Australia that enrolled over 7200 mothers and their babies, illuminated findings that suggested that mothers who DID NOT breastfeed were nearly 5 times more likely to abuse their child, as compared to mothers who breastfed their infants for 4 months or longer.  The study analyzed child welfare agency reports of child maltreatment that was inclusive of neglect, and both physical, and/or emotional abuse.

The human body is amazing in all of it component parts, and how all systems work in tandem to keep us functioning in optimal synergy.  As it relates to breastfeeding, oxytocin, a powerful hormone released during breastfeeding (and during orgasm and labor contractions…how interesting) is an obvious contributor to improved mood, feelings of calm, and loving expressions exhibited by a breastfeeding mother.  I know for me… just gazing into our daughter’s big beautiful eyes, and feeling her soft, warm skin against mine was intensely intoxicating.  This is an experience like no other, that all willing mothers should enjoy. However, many of us miss out on to the benefits of breastfeeding, that extend beyond breast milk.  This I believe to be to the detriment of ourselves, our children, our families and mankind.

So what does this mean for all of us?

Well, we have one more reason to continue advocating for, and supporting mothers who breastfeed.  Not only is breast milk far superior to infant formula, but breastfeeding in and of itself is proven beneficial to the emotional well-being of mom and baby, and is now confirmed to be  protective against infant and child abuse at the hands of a mother.

What better way to support the health of our most precious and defenseless members of our society.  As parents we are charged with keeping our children’s health and safety at the forefront of everything we do.  The choice to breastfeed is so much more than the simple choice that many want us to believe it to be.  It can prove to be one of the most significant decisions a parent can make that has implications for better health outcomes that extends throughout the lifespan.

What greater gift can we give,… and by just following the cues of Mother Nature?

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Sincerely,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Please be so kind and make a secure DONATION HERE.

Breastfeeding, Health & Wellness, Politics

Could Breastfeeding End the Sequester?

Hello America,th

We are now deep in the trenches of another government-induced financial debacle that is poised to pervasively impact all of our lives in many facets.  Just as the U.S. economy and housing market had begun to see signs of improvement, we were introduced to sequestration.  Sequestration is a set of mandatory spending cuts that stems from the Budget Control Act of 2011.  Under the sequester, nearly $1.2 trillion in spending cuts are to be spread across both the defense and discretionary domestic spending budgets over the course of nine-years; set to end in the year 2021.

The current sequestration is threatening public safety, Head Start and preschool programs for low-income families, meals for senior citizens; and a myriad of vital services and programs; where devastating cuts are occurring as we speak.  With many citizens employed in government-funded positions having to submit to mandatory furloughs, or worse.

So how could breastfeeding have anything to do with ending the sequester?

Well, according to a report by International Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C.,  the WIC* program spends nearly $89 million dollars per month, on food packages, which is largely comprised of funding to pay for infant formula that is provided at no cost to those mothers who opt to exclusively feed their baby infant formula, or who supplements their breastfeeding with infant formula.  This equates to nearly $1 billion spent over the course of one year.

So maybe…just maybe, if more WIC-eligible mothers opted to exclusively breastfeed their children, the portion of the monies allocated towards the purchase of infant formula could be reallocated to provide more breast pumps – saving the taxpayers more money, as breast pumps are a one time expense.  Infant formula has to be purchased monthly for up to 1 year, and is fairly costly.

As more WIC-eligible mothers opt to breastfeed, more of the exponential benefits of breastfeeding can be realized.  Breast milk consumption can decrease a child’s risk of contracting common childhood illnesses.  Which can result in an increase in a mother’s productivity when working outside of the home.  Moreover, breastfed infants and toddlers will see less of the doctors office; another taxpayer savings, as many of these same families may also be dependent upon Medicaid for their healthcare.

So if mothers who are enrolled in WIC choose to exclusively breastfeed, maybe families who have recently lost their child’s Head Start enrollment could return their child back to school, and they can return back to work?  Or maybe the funds could support another vital social program for growing families or senior citizens.  Who knows?  Of course this is all theoretical.  But one thing is for sure; breastfeeding is good – sequestration is bad.

We have to learn as much as we can as to how legislation impacts our lives, and be sure to elect politicians who will submit to the will of the people.  Because as we see, now more than ever, all politics are local.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Love,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

*(The WIC program (Women Infants and Children) provides low-income mothers, infants and children up to the age of 5 who are deemed at nutritional-risk, with supplemental food, infant formula, breastfeeding counseling and equipment, and referrals to social services and medical care. )

Please be so kind and make a secure DONATION HERE.

 

Breastfeeding, Labor & Delivery, Parenting

Is My Baby Getting Enough Breast Milk?

Upon the birth of their baby, new breastfeeding mothers may find it challenging to truly know if they are producing enough breast milk*.  Fortunately, your baby is likely to be giving off clear signs that they are in fact getting more than enough nourishment from mommy’s precious Liquid Gold.

Breastfed babies that exhibit the following signs are surely getting plenty of breast milk to satisfy their hunger, growth and development:

  • Has regular nursing sessions that total 8-12 feedings within 24 hours.  And last for 10 to 30 minutes per breast.
  • Makes audible sounds of swallowing during feedings.
  • Finishes a feeding on 1 breast on their own and accepts the 2nd breast or falls asleep.
  • Has regular bowel movements (2-5 per day) and an average of 5-6 wet diapers a day.
  • Gains 4-7 ounces each week (after 1st week of life).
  • Is growing, thriving, and appears happy and alert.

It is important that moms not get discouraged and begin supplementing breast milk feedings with infant formula.  Infants are prone to nipple confusion when artificial nipples and pacifiers are introduced.  Consequently, this can lead to an END to breastfeeding altogether, as baby may begin to refuse the breast as they become accustomed to the artificial nipple and bottle of infant formula.  For this reason as well, breastfeeding should ALWAYS be well established, (for several consecutive weeks) before introducing artificial nipples and pacifiers.

Moms should do well to take care of themselves too.  Get proper rest, eat a high quality, organic, local, Non-GMO diet, drink plenty of water, reduce stress and trust your instincts when it comes to the health of you and your baby.  And if you are legitimately concerned about your milk supply and infant’s health talk to a your healthcare provider, lactation professional, or doula for insight into the matter.

This book is an ideal resource for mothers concerned with their milk supply.

There are great resources available from La Leche League International that can help you have breastfeeding success.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Sincerely,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

*Breast milk is preceded by colostrum, the first milk-fluid that is produced by the breast.  It comes in the last few months of pregnancy.  It is full of antibodies and immune boosting properties that protect your baby from the many viruses and bacteria in our world.  As well, it helps your baby to have their first bowel movement, called meconium.  Within a few days, it is replaced by breast milk.

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Educational, Parenting, Quality of Life

Innovative Ideas & Gadgets for Playtime Fun!

As a parent or caregiver, you may find it challenging to remain creative when coming up with fun, interesting, game and activity ideas to keep your little one stimulated and content. Luckily there are many free activities you can enjoy at home, in your backyard, and right in your own community. Moreover, we are fortunate to live in an age of expansive technologies, and as a result,  there are many toys, games, educational computer software, and internet-based activities and gadgets that can prove helpful in providing learning and fun times for parents and kids alike.

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For starters, kids of all ages can enjoy:

  • Books
  • Painting & coloring
  • Crafts & puzzles
  • Enjoying the outdoors (supervised)
  • Dancing

Screentime:

When it comes to screentime, we work hard to keep our daughter’s exposure to a minimum.  We feel that it is important for her not to rely on technology to learn and have fun.  So when we do allow her to watch TV, use the computer, or tablet, we are sure that what she watches is both age and developmentally appropriate.  Toddlers and preschoolers should watch more soft content that focuses on developing social skills, friendship, colors, shapes and learning about the world around them that is presented in an inviting atmosphere.  PBS is a great resource, that features new programming, along with long-time favorites like Sesame Street.  You can access many of these same programs online at PBSkids.orgSprout is the cable network for PBS, but is not commercial-free.  Moreover, BabyFirstTV and BabyTV are commercial-free networks just for infants and preschoolers.  They also have online platforms, and Apps that you can download onto your smartphone or tablet for when you are on the go.

Insider Tip:
(if you don’t have cable television, you can use your laptop to access programming online.  You can even connect your flatscreen to the laptop using the HDMI cord and view internet content on the flatscreen; essentially your television becomes a computer monitor)

Gadgets:

If you fell like it’s time to rescue your tablet from your child’s hands, there are many new gadgets that serve as tablets for kids.  The top contenders are the LeapPad, Nabi, and Vtech tabletsConsumer Reports breaks down the pros and cons of these gadgets.

Your City:

It is likely that there is a lot for you to enjoy right outside your doorstep.  Most major cities and towns have cultural venues and events that are family-friendly, and can offer a cure for cabin fever, or a mundane weekend.  Many institutions like the library are free by nature.  The museums may have free or discounted days of the month for you to enjoy if you are lucky.  Below are a few examples of enriching activities that my family enjoys, and may be available in your city:

  • Children’s Museum
  • Zoo
  • Museums: Art, Natural History, ethnic/cultural
  • Library: Infant and preschool storytime is commonly held several days each week
  • Dance, music, swimming, tumbling, and martial arts lessons
  • Local Parks & Recreation Center programs
  • Community Festivals
  • Shopping Mall Play Areas
  • Preschool pottery; cooking; and gymnastics lessons

For more fun and intergenerational interaction, incorporate friends and extended family on these outings.  You can also invite parents and family with children of the same age for playdates. You can make fast friends with other like-minded parents whom you may encounter at storytime or at your neighborhood park.

Your Backyard:

If your backyard is barren and boring, consider investing in some outdoor play equipment like a jungle gym, swing set, and/or playhouse.  Check your local discount store, landscaping companies, and online retailers for competitive pricing.

To break the monotony, make a pallet with a blanket and move lunch or snack time outside in nice weather.  It is good to get some fresh air, and explore the outdoors with your little one, all while getting some much needed Vitamin D from the sun; an essential nutrient, and mood-booster (Don’t forget the sunscreen).

Under your guidance, your children can safely explore nature, ride their tricycle, roller skate, and just have some great outdoor fun – all for free.

So to conclude, to have some fun, memorable times with your growing family it doesn’t take much, just a little imagination and planning!   After a fun-filled day, your little ones should fall sound asleep, and then maybe mom and dad can ALSO have some much-needed playtime…just saying.

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In Love and Peace Always,

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Breastfeeding, Parenting

I Plan to Adopt. Can I Breastfeed?

Adoption is a great way to expand your family while offering a deserving child the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits that the love of a genuine family can provide. And when considering adoption, some future adoptive mothers may ask themselves, can I breastfeed my adopted infant?

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The simple answer is YES! I know it may seem biologically impossible, but many adoptive mothers have experienced what is called induced lactation through commitment, diligence, and the help of lactation specialist trained in this unique technique. Induced lactation can occur through the strategic use of an electric breast pump in combination with prescription medications that mimic the hormonal changes that stimulate milk production during pregnancy. These measures should be taken prior to the adoption, and under the supervision of a healthcare practitioner and lactation specialist.

This book can help you make an informed choice when considering whether or not to breastfeed your adopted infant child.

Now for those adoptive mothers who choose not to induce lactation, but want their child to enjoy the countless, health benefits of breastfeeding can purchase donor breast milk from licensed Milk Banks that are associated with medical institutions across the country. Talk to your healthcare provider for information on the use of donor breast milk to feed your child.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Breastfeeding, Parenting

Daddy Can Do It! Dad’s Blueprint for Help with Breastfeeding

Fathers have a vital role in the lives of their children, and consequently, one essential role of the father is to provide nourishment to their children, in support of their health and well-being.  Beginning at birth, a breastfeeding mother may be the primary provider of sustenance, however fathers can support this important effort, and be an integral part of mom’s breastfeeding support network.

Father’s can help mothers sustain breastfeeding by doing a few key things:

Agricultural Justice, Breastfeeding, Environmental Justice, Health & Wellness, Nutrition, Parenting, Quality of Life

Should I Be Concerned About Eating Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

Many people are just now learning about GMOs or Genetically Engineered Organisms with the recent media coverage of the groundbreaking legislation being proposed by concerned California citizens entitled Proposition 37.  Proposition 37, if passed will require food manufacturers to label foods produced with any genetically engineered ingredients.

So what is the big deal with GMOs?  What are they and are they safe?  As well, does their use in our food production and farming systems provide us with more abundance, lower cost, and a solution to hunger, as the corporations who created them have promised?

The reality is that 80-90% of corn, soy and canola crops in this country are GMO.  And nearly 75% of all processed foods have GMO ingredients.  GMOs are organisms, or in this case foods whose DNA have been altered to include the attributes or characteristics of another organism.  For example, the genes from an animal that allow it to survive in cold temperatures may be injected into the DNA of a plant to help it grow in colder climates. The concern lies where there is no evidence that GMOs are safe to consume overtime, and consequently, there is emerging scientific evidence that suggests that the consumption of GMOs can lead to adverse health effects.  A study in France documented cancerous tumors in lab rats who were only fed Monsanto GMO Corn for 1-year.

The consumption of GMOs could be responsible for an increased risk of the following conditions:

Source: Naturalnews.com
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (i.e., Crohn’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
  • Cancer
  • Autism
  • Infertility
  • Immune system problems
  • Organ damage

The aforementioned health risks are just a few of the potential health hazards that may be attributed to the consumption of GMO foods.  In addition, GMO crops pose a threat to the health of the environment and agricultural system because they both produce, and require chemical pesticides for cultivation.  In addition, GMO crops interact with natural crop species through contamination, disease transmission and ultimately, plant destruction of the natural plant.  Moreover, there is a real threat concerning farmers who don’t plant GMO crops, as their unadulterated crop species,  that we have relied on for an eternity for nourishment,  is now being threatened by GMO plant pollination and seed infiltration from neighboring GMO farms.  As a result natural crops are vulnerable to extinction, along with nature’s organic pollinators;  insects that include, but not limited to honey bees, and a wide variety of butterflies.  And to add insult to injury, Non-GMO farmers are being sued for the cross pollination of their crops by the invading GMO species.  This is a natural occurrence happening at no fault of their own, with many of them being forced to plant GMO crops by food industry giants resultant from unbalanced legislation.

Below you will find your action plan to learn more, and avoid GMOs:

  1. Eat organic, and be strategic to save money.  Shop at wholesale clubs to save on organics.
  2. Get the Non-GMO Shopping Guide right here.
  3. Get the App to use while shopping.
  4. Buy Non-GMO Project Verified foods.
  5. Eat locally and in season.
  6. Buy organic eggs, milk and butter.
  7. Incorporate milk alternatives like nut, hemp and organic rice milks for good health.
  8. Support Proposition 37, the political movement to label GMOs in our foods.
  9. Begin the healing process and share this information.
  10. Breastfeed.  Non-organic infant formula could be made up of an average of 51% GMO soy.
  11. Support organizations and  politicians who advocate for agricultural justice.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has a webpage with resources for parents. This is a great place to start to learn how you can make a difference to remove GMOs out of the world’s food system.  Agribusiness has spread GMO crops and their scourge to India, Africa and any other place they can impose their will.  Interestingly, they have been rejected by most countries over agricultural, environmental, and the potential health risks posed.  While on the website, checkout and share Genetic Roulette, a very enlightening documentary that highlights the risks associated with GMOs consumption, and the history behind their infiltration into our food system.

I understand that many of us are frustrated to know that we have one more thing to be concerned about as it relates to what we feed our families, and we deserve to know what is in our food so that we can make informed and safe decisions.

Learn more and speak out with your wallet and your VOTE!

Eat to Live!

Stay Healthy and Wise

Sincerely,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

 

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Health & Wellness, Nutrition, Parenting

Meal Ideas for the Picky Preschooler

Making a nutritious and appealing meal for your growing toddler and preschooler can be a challenge.  Some of the things that they used to love,  may now cause them to turn their cute little noses up at the very sight of their old time favorites.  If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself  turning into a short order cook as you work tirelessly to satisfy the appetites of everyone in your family.

Don’t burn yourself out!  With a little planning and strategy, you can create nutritious, diverse and exciting meals that will surprise both you and your family, and expand your child’s palate.

I’ve put together several very easy recipe ideas that can relieve mealtime anxiety for the busy parent, and add a little variety to what already works.

  • Build on what your child(ren) already like to eat by introducing different foods from the same family.  For instance, if your little one likes broccoli, introduce cauliflower.  If they like peaches, try nectarines and apricots, or dates (pitted)  in place of the all too reliable raisin.
  • Incorporate your child(ren) in food preparation when feasible.  They can count out pieces of fruits and veggies, or add ingredients to a bowl with your supervision.
  • Using your imagination with  leftovers is a great way of cutting down on food waste.  Use leftover pancake batter to make miniature muffins filled with diced meats, shredded cheese, and vegetables or fruits.  To make these muffins, fill a mini muffin tin halfway with pancake batter, add your choice of ingredients, then a final spoonful of pancake mix to cover.  Cook for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees.  Their size makes them an ideal fit for a kiddie thermos, and can be easily packed for a quick lunch on the go.  Just cook them right before you leave the house, and preheat a stainless steel thermos by pouring boiling water in it, and letting it sit for 5 minutes before pouring out the water, wiping it dry, and adding the food.  This will help to keep the food warm longer.
  • Pre-slice fruits and veggies and store them in containers in the fridge for quick snacks.  A squirt of lemon juice will help to keep fruits from browning.

    Zucchini Turkey Bacon Parmesan Muffins, Source: Restore the Village, Inc.
  • Use homemade or jar spaghetti sauce, and shredded cheese for a quick personal pizza using pita bread, naan, an English muffin or bagel.
  • Purchase miniature pie tins to make preschooler-sized pies filled with savory or sweet ingredients.  Make a pot pie with diced leftover chicken, mixed veggies and a little condensed creamy soup.  Use a  pre-made  pie crust or just make your own.
  • Make sandwich wraps using whole grain tortillas to make innovative lunches with hazelnut spread, seed butter, made from sunflower seeds,  fruit preserves and raisins.  Or try turkey breast, light mayo, and cheese.  Roll it tight like a burrito, and slice on the diagonal.
  • Smoothies are a great way to get a big  nutritional bang all at once.  Use rice, almond, coconut milk, or organic yogurt, fresh or frozen fruits, maple syrup, honey or agave as a sweetener, leafy greens like kale or Swiss chard, and fruit juice.  Add a handful of oatmeal and blend to create a fiber-filled delicious breakfast smoothie.
  • Noodles are always a hit!  Try egg noodles or fun pasta shapes, and gourmet ravioli filled with spinach, other veggies and cheese.  Cover with your child’s favorite pasta sauce made of cheese, tomatoes or olive oil and butter.

Feeding your little ones will get easier over time as their tastes expand to include a variety of new and exciting complex flavors that they’ll  enjoy for a lifetime, and no doubt share with their little ones.  The key is to continue to prepare nutritious meals that encourage your family to try new tastes, and plan your meals in advance to help make a hectic and busy lifestyle a little easier.

Your toddler may only want chicken nuggets and mac n’ cheese today, but that could very well change to broiled fish, brown rice and asparagus tomorrow.  Just remain consistently diverse in the foods you put in front of your family and you won’t have to drag them along for the culinary ride kicking and screaming.

Happy Cooking!

As with all recipe suggestions, I encourage the use of high quality, organic, local, and Non-GMO ingredients.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Health & Wellness, Parenting, Quality of Life

How Safe Are Your Baby Care Products?

We are exposed to a large number of environmental chemicals in our daily lives.  However most of us focus on those environmental pollutants that we can easily identify like cigarette smoke, smog from vehicles, and pesticides and agricultural chemicals in our food and water supply.  But we happen to ignore one very important, and obvious mode of exposure – our skin.  Our skin is the largest organ of the body and it is permeable, which means things easily travel both inside and out.  Therefore it is essential that we not neglect the importance of knowing what we put on our skin, hair and nails.  Our children are especially vulnerable, as their immature body systems can be adversely affected by exposures to intensely corrosive chemical agents that have not been proven safe, or have been shown to be detrimental from prolonged use and exposure.

There are numerous baby care products on the market, from the old tried and true, to the very new, that promise to keep baby fresh, clean and soft.  But really, how safe are these products for your precious baby’s skin and overall long-term health?

There are a few things to consider when selecting personal care products for your baby:

  • How many ingredients are listed?  If there are too many chemical agents, and you find that you cannot easily pronounce them, then you may want to reconsider that product choice.
  • Is the product organic or natural?  It may say it’s natural, but reading the ingredient label is still a good idea.  You may discover chemical agents in a product that claims to be “All Natural.”  I happened to find mineral oil in a popular baby body wash that was labeled as all natural with oatmeal.
  • Is it free from petrochemicals like petroleum jelly and mineral oil?  Exposure to these  petroleum derivatives can increase cancer risk.  Think about it.  Would you want to slather your baby’s skin with a chemical agent that is converted into gasoline and motor oil?  Well that’s what petroleum is, and it is in a ton of personal care products for babies and adults.
  • Is it free from dyes, sulfates, phtlates and parabens?  These chemicals have also been shown to be harmful and have adverse effects on the human body over prolonged use.  They can put you at risk for cancer, diabetes, and disorders of the endocrine system; which regulates hormone production.
  • Can you eat it?  What I mean by this is, if you can safely eat it, then you can know that it is safe to put on your skin.  Essentially when you put anything on your skin, you are ingesting it.  So opt for plant-derived products like coconut, almond and castor oils.

So what else can you do to make a difference, and protect your children and family from these toxic agents?  First do your own research.  Credible resources on the internet, and evidence-based research articles can provide unbiased information on the dangers of these chemical agents.  Fortunately, many news outlets have begun producing articles and news stories that showcase the most recent research, and new evidence that highlights the dangers of the consumption of these chemicals for both us, and the fragile environment.  Read and do your due diligence to learn more.

Second, vote with your wallet.  Purchase products that you know are better.  Shop with small business owners and artisans who specialize in natural personal care products.  Plant-derived products with ingredients like olive oil, Shea butter, nut, seed and coconut oils are good examples.  You can even make your own custom blends of moisturizing body creams by mixing them together at home and adding natural fragrances with organic essential oils like lavender, peppermint and  eucalyptus.

It is true that it can be challenging to monitor the many toxic chemical agents in our environment that can prove to be harmful to us and our families.  The good news is that many corporations have changed their product formulations for the common good, and have begun to remove harmful chemicals from their product lines because consumers have demanded it.  So remaining vocal and sending a email to your favorite personal care company can prove positive in instituting change in the industry.  The squeaky wheel does get the oil – no pun intended.

Let’s continue to safeguard our children from unnecessary chemical exposures both inside and outside of their bodies.  They have enough to combat on their own once they become adults in this chemical-laden world we live in.  As parents we can reduce their risk of exposure to known environmental toxins, and give them a fighting chance for optimal health in the future.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding, Parenting

When Should the Working Mom Wean?

When should you wean your little one from the breast?  When you feel, and know that the the time is right for both you and your baby.

Some mothers who choose to breastfeed beyond 6 months or 1 year of age for that matter may find that they face ridicule or lack of social and family support.  This is true even though our U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization recommend exclusively breastfeeding your child for the first 6 months of life before introducing complementary foods; with moms being encouraged to continue breastfeeding their child up to the age of 2 years, and beyond if they so desire.

Our society tends to promote an ideal that mothers should aspire to be all things to everyone.  For this reason, moms in the workforce tend to bear the brunt of that expectational burden; portraying themselves as the driven career woman who can do it all while juggling motherhood effortlessly.  As a result, career moms may feel more pressure to wean their child from the breast sooner than later, as compared to their counterparts who are stay-at-home mothers.  Nevertheless, mothers must remember that they should not feel compelled to buy-in to any unrealistic ideals of motherhood that are thrust upon them by the media, their peer groups, families or professional circles.  It’s better to trust yourself, and use your heart and mind when choosing what is best for you and your family.

For many mothers, including breastfeeding into a busy schedule filled with work, school, family and community obligations can force them to reassess their breastfeeding goals, or for that matter, give up much too soon.  That decision has the potential to be detrimental to them, and more importantly their child’s health and emotional well-being.  Personally, I have successfully juggled being a breastfeeding mom, while maintaining a career and attending graduate school.  I may have made it look easy, however, challenges persisted in even the most ideal situations, with time management and my daughter’s disdain for the bottle being my biggest hurdles.  Fortunately for me, at the time I was nursing, I was employed with an organization that is breastfeeding friendly.  They have lactation rooms throughout the institution.  Historically most working mothers have not had access to this much-needed amenity in the workplace.  The good news is that the tides have turned with the newly enacted Affordable Care Act from the Obama Administration, which requires that businesses with over 50 employees provide private, safe, and clean accommodations for mothers to express their milk, and they must allow for adequate break time to do so.  For this reason, nursing moms everywhere may not have to wean their baby prematurely because of lack of workplace support for breastfeeding.  A triumph for the breastfeeding movement in the United States!

With all this in mind, moms can be proactive when planning for the weaning process, as it is a process and should not be done abruptly as to prevent undue stress, frustration, and emotional duress for you, your baby, and your family.

Below are a few things to consider when contemplating weaning your baby:

  • Begin discussing the plans to wean with your spouse, partner or other support persons.
  • Develop a plan with your child’s pediatrician.
  • Weaning does not have to be an all-or-nothing approach.  You may choose to only nurse at night and give your baby a bottle or sippy cup with your expressed milk during the day; with a gradual separation from the breast as the ultimate goal.
  • Pay attention to your baby’s cues.  As they mature and begin to eat solid foods, they may become increasingly distracted and disinterested in nursing.  If so, this may be a good time to begin the weaning process.
  • Introduce a new soft plush toy for your child to enjoy and find comfort in.  This is how they can channel their need for comfort that they are no longer receiving from nursing.
  • Explain to your child that they are growing up and no longer need to nurse like when they were a baby.  Be reassuring.  Hug and cuddle them when they approach you to nurse, and reaffirm to them that they can now drink a beverage from a cup like a big boy or girl.

For more information, KidsHealth has great tips on how to wean your baby.  And for direct weaning support contact The National Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-800-994-9662.

Happy Nursing & Weaning!

In Love & Health – Stay Healthy & Wise

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding, Parenting

BPA is Bad for Baby & Bad for You Too!

If you needed one more reason to tout the beneficial aspects of breastfeeding, here it is!  BPA or bisphenol A;  a toxic chemical commonly used in industrial plastics and consumer products, and more specifically, in the linings of canisters of infant formula, and many prepackaged foods like canned goods, is a threat to the health of your infant’s fragile immune system and developing brain.  The Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group, surveyed several infant formula companies and found that 4 of the 5 largest formula companies use BPA in the lining of their canisters; with liquid formula having been found to have the highest concentration of BPA in the metal lining of the can.

Studies of the chemical BPA have highlighted that increased exposure is detrimental to the endocrine, or hormonal systems of the body, and the developing brain of growing infants.  For adults, the risk of prolonged exposure in the food supply suggest that there may be concerns regarding its estrogenic effects; meaning that BPA, a known synthetic estrogen, can put humans at risk for infertility and some forms of cancer.  For children, BPA exposure has been associated with disorders of the reproductive system and behavioral problems.

So what does this mean for you as a parent?  This means that your choice to breastfeed your child is even more complex than many folks may have considered, but staying ahead of the curve by informing yourself and looking for ways to better the health of your family makes it all worth it.  Remember, the health of your family is at risk if you allow the nourishment of your children to be controlled by  corporations with unfavorable manufacturing processes, and not Mother Nature.  So mothers – trust your instincts, and your bodies to care for your children and families.

A few tips on helping your family avoid BPA:

  • Breastfeed.
  • Never microwave baby food or beverages in plastic containers.
  • Reduce or avoid eating canned goods (drain and rinse with fresh water to reduce exposure).
  • If you do choose to eat canned goods, consider Eden Foods.  Currently they are the only company that does not use BPA in their canning process (except for their tomato-based products).
  • Glass is the best option for food storage unless the container states it is BPA-free.
  • Encourage companies to discontinue the use of BPA and support companies who already do.

To learn more about how to safeguard your family against environmental toxins like BPA,  you can find more information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In Love & Health – Stay Healthy & Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding, Labor & Delivery, Parenting

Creating Your Best Birth Plan

Most expectant parents are both excited and anxious as they await the arrival of their precious bundle of joy.  And because this is such a monumental event that will be shared by the parents, obstetrics care team and hospital staff, it is vital to remember that the aspects of the birth experience that are in the control of the parents, should be reflective of the personalities and desires of the parents-to-be.  This is where crafting a Birth Plan can come in handy.  A Birth Plan is just as it sounds.  It allows for the desires and requests concerning the birth experience and infant care to be communicated to the labor & delivery team on paper.

To create a comprehensive Birth Plan,  it is best to consider various aspects of the birth of your child that are important to you.  For instance, you can describe your wishes to include many of these items listed below:

  • Mood of the room where the delivery will take place (flameless candles, music, etc.).
  • Desired birth setting: hospital, birth center or home.
  • Presence of additional support persons like a Birth Doula.
  • Breastfeeding plan.
  • Stance on use of pain medications.
  • Considerations for a cesarean delivery (c-section).
  • Family and friends that you would like in attendance.
  • Special accommodations like Water Birth, Birthing Ball, massage etc.
  • Desires for rooming-in with baby or how much time your baby will spend away from you in the nursery.  As well, you can indicate that you would like for your spouse, partner, or designee be allowed to be with your baby at all times in case of your potential inability to tend to them due to c-section recovery, or other unforeseen complications of delivery.
  • Feelings on pacifier use, glucose water feedings, infant formula use, and circumcision.
  • And any other aspects or accommodations that are of importance to you and your family.

Now because of course childbirth is an unpredictable occurrence, the likelihood that a Birth Plan can be followed to the letter is inherently challenged.  Therefore, parents must be both flexible and hopeful in their expectations.

So expectant parents get started on your Birth Plan!  Begin discussing the aspects of the birth, labor and delivery experience that are most important to you.  Record your wishes in a pregnancy journal and eventually type it out when complete.  Then share it with your obstetric care team, as then you all can discuss the potential for making your plan work, and have it filed in the expectant mommy’s medical chart.

The American Pregnancy Association has more valuable insight on crafting the best Birth Plan.

Stay Healthy & Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Breastfeeding, Parenting

Donating Your Breast Milk Saves Lives

I first heard of the milk bank when I was reading an article online that showcased the work that they were doing to support the health of the tiniest victims of the 2010 Haitian earthquake – infants hospitalized in an intensive care unit on a U.S. Military-supported humanitarian mission.  I had no clue that an organization like a “milk bank” even existed to provide this wonderful service to the community.

A milk bank is an organization that processes and distributes donated human breast milk to infants that are hospitalized in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) nationwide.   There are 12 member institution milk banks in North America according to the  Human Milk Banking Association of North America.  These milk banks serve 39 states and 264 cities, and 7 cities in 3 provinces in Canada.

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Human breast milk is the medically recommended nutritional therapy for infants hospitalized in the NICU as they recover from their ailments; and human donor milk provided by compassionate mothers helps to make this endeavor possible.  In order to donate, a mother provides the milk bank with her frozen surplus milk.  It is packaged and shipped overnight to the nearest milk bank (at their expense).  Once it arrives, it is tested for disease causing pathogens, carefully combined with other donations, and gently pasteurized to ensure that it is free of bacteria, while maintaining most of the vital nutrients, and immune-boosting properties that are unique to breast milk.  The next and final step is the distribution of this life-saving liquid gold to infants in NICUs throughout the United States.

I was so moved by the mission of the Milk Bank that I donated a sizable amount of my surplus breast milk to the Milk Bank of Ohio.  Our daughter was several months old at the time, and had begun eating solid foods and reduced her intake of milk, so it was great to put my liquid gold to good use.  I expressed fresh milk for the purposes of the donation and still had plenty supply to nurse our daughter.  The donation process was fairly simple and straight forward.  Now, there are a few preliminary steps that you have to follow to ensure that you are a suitable candidate for donation, but it’s all worth it the extra effort.

Donors are always needed, so contact your local milk bank today to find out how you can make a difference in the life of a baby and family in need.

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

Breastfeeding, Parenting

How to Beat Barriers to Breastfeeding in Labor & Delivery

I was armed with an arsenal of information on how to have a successful breastfeeding beginning as we prepared for the birth of our daughter.  I had read many of the best books, credible websites, and had extensive conversations with my health care providers, other nursing moms, and colleagues with lactation backgrounds.  I was ready.  Or so I thought.  Nothing can prepare you for what you encounter once you are in the care of the labor & delivery hospital staff.  Even the most savvy new parents can become intimidated or unsure when in this unfamiliar and often hectic environment.  So what should new parents do to remain steadfast in their breastfeeding goals, and flexible all at the same time?

Well first off, I would say don’t allow yourself to panic if you are met with resistance, conflicting information or bad advice from labor & delivery nurses or physicians.  Remember, they are there to provide you exemplary, safe healthcare, and support while you are under their care.  It is their job to meet your needs.  Most of these healthcare professionals are extremely helpful and reassuring, but some – not so much.    If you feel uncomfortable or unsure about something that is happening or being done to you, your new baby or your partner – SPEAK UP!  Sometimes these folks can be dismissive or inattentive.  And as a healthcare recipient it is your responsibility to be your own advocate to ensure you get the most of your birthing and post-delivery experience.  If you have to, designate your spouse or partner to speak on your behalf if you lack the energy or where with all to do so (you just gave birth, so it may be best to pass the torch to a family member who can speak to your voice).

“You need to supplement.”

The second day after the birth of our daughter, the doctors suggested that I supplement my breastfeeding to combat my daughter’s rapid weight-loss.  I was immediately concerned that they wanted me to resort to infant formula.  Determined not to jeopardize my breastfeeding success, I immediately contacted the lactation nurse and she assisted me in expressing my colostrum* with a hospital grade electric breast pump.  While nursing my daughter, my husband or mother used a skinny plastic pipette and a colostrum-filled syringe to dribble my liquid gold into the corner of her mouth while she simultaneously suckled at my breast.  This technique rectified the issue; at her next weigh-in her weight had rebounded, and she has never had a drop of infant formula in her life.

When the attending physician told me that we needed to supplement, I called my husband nearly in tears and told him to get prepared to purchase some organic infant formula because they wanted me to supplement my breastfeeding.  Now if the doctor had been more clear and reassuring, and suggested that I work with the lactation nurse, then I may not have panicked.  I just had the where with all to get support from the lactation staff before resorting to infant formula supplementation – some moms may not have been as discerning to really understand what was being proposed, and how to best approach a self-derived solution.  Many new moms may feel somewhat confused and dis-empowered in situations like this, no matter how informed and prepared they may be.

“Don’t Let Her Use You As a Pacifier.”

Now this one really ticked me off.  A nurse who appeared to have been in the field as long as I have been on this earth, dared to make this declaration to me after I expressed to her my concerns over the seemingly excessive amount of nursing my daughter was doing.  She suggested that I give her a pacifier in lieu of the breast.  Really????  So what did I do?  I mulled it over, trusted my instincts and kept nursing our daughter on demand.  When she wanted it, she got it.  And my choice was reaffirmed when I later spoke to the lactation nurse who reminded me that babies nurse when they are hungry.  Feed them and don’t question it.  At that very fragile point in our nursing relationship, the use of a pacifier could have derailed her latch and led to undue frustration and potential breastfeeding failure.  As well, I was reminded that mother nature prevails.  Our daughter was doing what was necessary to help my milk come in.  The more she nursed, the quicker my milk would come in to provide her with sustenance.  It all makes sense.

So the moral of the story is, trust your gut instinct and keep close family aware of your concerns so they can advocate on behalf of you and your new baby.  And be sure to communicate your breastfeeding and birth experience wishlist to your OB doctor, midwife and birth doula (if you have one).  Putting it all on paper in the form of a Birth Plan can be helpful as well.  This way your care provider has an official account of your requests in your medical chart.

In my next post I will cover how to effectively construct a Birth Plan, so stay tuned!

Stay Healthy & Wise!

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

*Colostrum is the first milk-fluid that is produced by the breast.  It comes in the last few months of pregnancy.  It is full of antibodies and immune boosting properties that protect your baby from the many viruses and bacteria in our world.  As well, it helps your baby to have their first bowel movement, called meconium.  Within a few days, it is replaced by breast milk.

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding, Parenting

Wine, Beer & Breast Milk?

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While enjoying my experience with friends at one of the premiere wine festivals in Northeast Ohio, I looked around at all the revelers and wine enthusiasts; mostly women, and I couldn’t help but think about all those attendees who are mothers of small children. These moms may have been celebrating a day out with the girls, or their significant other, away from mommy duties that include an essential duty – feeding and nourishing their baby with their “liquid gold” breast milk.

There are many misconceptions about whether or not breastfeeding mothers can indulge in an occasional glass of wine, beer or other alcoholic beverage while actively breastfeeding. This is a very necessary conversation to have with your health care provider to make sure you are adequately safeguarding the health of your baby if you make the commitment to breastfeed, but still want to enjoy an occasional libation.

Now I am not one to advocate for the consumption of alcohol, however, I do know that many mothers choose to drink alcohol responsibly while actively breastfeeding. As well, these mothers want to ensure that their baby is protected from undue harm, so what do they do? They express their breast milk prior to their special mommy moment, or outing.

The conscientious breastfeeding mom will time her nursing schedule just so that she can feed her baby before consuming alcohol, and she expresses her milk with her manual or electric breast pump, stores it in the fridge or freezer so that either she, or another parent or caregiver can feed her baby while she is on her short-term nursing siesta. Many of these same mothers may already have an adequate stash of milk already stored if she is actively pumping.

Some mothers have been told to pump and dump after alcohol consumption, as this practice was thought to remove the breast milk that is ‘tainted”. However, that is not the best option to protect your baby. According to the National Institutes of Health, it may be safe for a nursing mother to consume an occasional drink that is measured at up to 2 ounces of alcohol, 8 ounces of wine or 24 ounces of beer in one day. However, it is recommended that they discuss the risks with their health care provider. It is also a good idea to consider using technology that can help you to be absolutely certain that your breast milk is free from residual alcohol. A very inventive mother came up with a product that can detect alcohol levels in breast milk. Mother’s are so smart, aren’t we? Anyhow, the product is called Milkscreen. You place a small amount of freshly expressed milk on the little dipstick, and within moments you will know if your milk is safe for your little one to consume.

The National Institutes of Health has more information on breastfeeding self-care topics like this and more.

Remember mommies, you can have it all! An occasional nightcap after the bedtime stories might be just what the doctor ordered. Just use common sense and be smart and safe.

Stay Healthy & Wise

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

 

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding, Health & Wellness, Parenting

Happy World Breastfeeding Week from President Obama & The Affordable Care Act!

https://i1.wp.com/worldbreastfeedingweek.org/images/wbw-header.pngOn a conference call this week hosted by White House and Health and Human Services officials, I intently hung on to every word as the country’s top female dignitaries from the Obama Administration highlighted all of the important and monumental aspects of the Affordable Care Act – which intentionally benefit the health of women and their families. These new laws take effect August 1st.

I was in great company as I listened to Valerie Jarrett, Senior Adviser to President Obama and Chair of the White House Council on Women & Girls; Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General, Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Nadine Gracia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for MINORITY Health; and Mayra Alvarez, Director of Public Policy, Office of Health Reform. They all shared the news that many women and families have been hoping for since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) became law; which equates to more access and affordability. There are 22 preventive health care screenings and measures that insurance companies are now required to offer, without a co-pay – a cost that many women have found to be a barrier to obtaining consistent preventive screenings and vital health care throughout their lifespan.

Another vitally important benefit, when it comes to breastfeeding, is that the ACA is requiring that health insurers provide groundbreaking coverage, and care, that has not historically been supported at this magnitude at the federal level. What this means is, as a result of the Affordable Health Act, health insurance carriers are now required to provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equally important, supplies and equipment to their expectant mother clientele. This is wonderful news! As many working mothers may still find it challenging to afford the cost of an electric breast pump and breastfeeding supplies as she attempts to successfully breastfeed while simultaneously performing work or school duties away from her baby.

For more information on the new levels of coverage available under the Affordable Care Act visit: http://www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2011/08/womensprevention08012011a.html#

It’s also a good idea to contact your employer’s benefits administrator or health insurance carrier to learn when you can begin taking advantage of your new benefits. And lastly, thank President Obama and his administration, and your Senators and Congress persons who supported this all too important legislation that will have a positive impact on the health of women and their families for generations to come.
Stay Healthy & Wise

Ericka

Health & Wellness, Quality of Life

Choosing the Best Whole Foods for Optimal Health

PHIL Image 13667Choosing the Best Whole Foods for Optimal Health

To begin a successful eating plan you must incorporate more fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet.  As well you may recognize the importance of eating less animal based protein. All of these things can improve your overall health, and you know it. So why does it appear to be such a daunting task to select the right foods?

Never fear!  Your friendly Public Health Practitioner is here, and I have compiled this easy checklist for you to consider as you make your next trip to the grocery store.

Tip #1 – Shop the perimeter of the store: If you take notice, the entire perimeter of the store includes all things fresh; produce, the deli, butcher, fish monger, milk/dairy/eggs, and bread. By shopping the perimeter of the store, you can increase the likelihood that you select fresh, whole and foods that are minimally processed.  Once you begin walking down the aisles, you will become subjected to foods (if you can call them food) that are full of preservatives, fillers, and things you cannot pronounce. Remember, if it has more than 5 ingredients, you may want to reconsider.

Tip #2 – Go organic: This is a good rule of thumb when it comes to produce, dairy, eggs, poultry, and red meat. Eating organic can reduce your exposure to agricultural chemical pesticides, and fertilizers that have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and hormonal disorders that can have a negative effect the reproductive system.  Additionally, by choosing organics over conventional food products you are supporting farming practices that are beneficial to our fragile environment, and you may be indirectly supporting local farmers in your region – definitely a great thing for our health and the environment.

Now when most people consider the cost of organics, they cringe.  It is true, they can be more costly than their conventional counterparts. But interestingly, you can save money on organics. Many wholesale clubs like Costco and BJ’s have organics available in bulk.  If you have a family, or cook often, it makes sense to get a membership, and a deep freezer.  And because we have become more health conscious as a society overall, there is more availability of organic foods; driving down price.  So to make your dollars stretch, you do have to be strategic. Follow this simple rule: buy the “dirty dozen” in organic. This means that you purchase those fruits and veggies that have the highest pesticide residue – produce where you would consume both the skin, and flesh while eating it.  Apples happen to be public enemy #1 when it comes to pesticide residue, and onions happen to have the least pesticide residue of all produce.  This nifty guide from the Environmental Working Group has them all outlined for your reference, and has an App available for your smartphone for use on the go.

Tip #3 – What would your Great Granny eat?: Basically what I mean by this is, If your Great Granny would recognize it as food, eat it. If not, reconsider. There are too many fabricated foods out on the market that are created to be replacements for what’s real.   Think about it, if it has too many ingredients, how real is it…really?

Tip #4 – Natural or fat-free does not = good for you: The food says natural or fat-free on the packaging, yada, yada, yada.  Now what you need to do is remember, if they take something out, they are going to put something back in to compensate for the loss of fat, sugar or salt, that they are removing to convince you that this would be  good choice to buy for you and your loved ones.  Don’t fall for it.  Read the labels, or better yet go back to the perimeter of the store and get out of the aisles. You’re not listening!  Repeat Tip #1.

Tip #5 – Go Meatless:  It is a proven fact that eating less animal-based protein can reduce your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, high cholesterol, and can help keep you at a healthy weight.  So, it is good to give meat a rest – frequently. Getting your children accustomed to this positive eating pattern is ideal as it fosters lifelong habits.  So its a good thing to give meat a rest, after all, I’m sure we’ve all eaten enough of it to probably last a life time, or at least until the next family cookout.  In contrast, consider eating more beans, legumes, quinoa, brown rice, hemp and wheat proteins like seitan, as well as 100% whole wheat pastas.  The Meatless Monday campaign has a lot of cool ways for you and your family to put down the fork.

What I have shared with you is just a snapshot of what you can do to get the ball rolling.  I will have more to share in upcoming posts.

Now get going!

Stay Healthy and Wise!

Sincerely,

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

 

This information is purely education and is not a substitute for the care and advice of a licensed healthcare provider.

Breastfeeding, Labor & Delivery, Parenting

Babies Breastfeed. They Don’t Nipple Feed!

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I always chuckle when I think about that phrase. But it highlights one of the many misconceptions about breastfeeding, which is also one of the root causes of discomfort that forces many well-meaning moms to give up. Now for many of us who have attempted to nurse have discovered, there is a learning curve. Both mom and baby are experiencing this phenomenon together and practice makes perfect. The first two weeks can be the most challenging, and unfortunately, this is when many moms hang-up their nursing bras and grab the canister of formula. But it is vitally important that new nursing mom’s understand that BREASTFEEDING SHOULD NOT HURT! Let me repeat…BREASTFEEDING SHOULD NOT HURT. Childbirth hurts enough. Why would you be punished again with pain??? If it does hurt, your technique is all wrong and you need to seek support immediately from your doctor, midwife, Birth Doula, or community-based support groups like La Leche League or your local WIC breastfeeding counselor.

Below are some more great techniques I learned from a few gracious lactation nurses and breastfeeding literature:

  1. You will experience the most success at getting your baby to accomplish the perfect latch if you introduce the entire nipple and surrounding areola into the baby’s mouth, not just the nipple.
  2. Put the tip of your nipple on the baby’s nose to encourage them to open their mouth extra wide, then quickly jam your breast into their mouth. I know this may elicit a giggle, but it works.
  3. Bring your baby’s head towards your nipple, not your nipple towards your babies mouth.
  4. Lastly, don’t give up!

Once you master the proper latch it’s smooth sailing.

For more info on breastfeeding and to find support outlets in your area check out the Womenshealth.gov website on breastfeeding.

Happy Nursing!

Stay Healthy & Wise

Ericka L. Abrams, Public Health Practitioner

This information is purely educational.  You are encouraged to consult a licensed medical provider.*

Parenting, Quality of Life

Being the Perfect Parent?

The privilege of parenthood is a blessed one.  We must acknowledge the gift.  Embrace it, and strive for ways to improve upon what we consider our very best efforts.

Our children depend on us to be their first educators, nurture their spirits, talents, and build up their self-esteem so that they can soar above all of the carnage created by the ignorance of adults that lays low beneath their delicate wings.  Moreover, we are called to provide the anti-thesis of the bare minimum – abundance in all things real.  Monetary abundance may help you afford more than enough things of material measure, however $ does not automatically yield love and quality family engagement.  Happiness and good times are genuine efforts that cannot be bought and sold.

Lastly, be sure to keep the wisdom of the elders in your ear and on your heart.  The great wise ones can impart knowledge and love to you and your little ones.  Make sure that your and your children spend time with them.  Appreciate their advice for they can often help guide you onto the paths of enlightenment.  As a result you may be so privileged as to learn how to navigate this journey of parenthood unscathed as you have heeded the many gems that they’ve shared with you.

The takeaway: to be a perfect parent requires that we love our babies like their lives depend on it…because it  does.

Peace and Love,

E

Breastfeeding, Female Reproductive Health, Health & Wellness, Nutrition, Parenting, Pregnancy, Quality of Life

Power of Perception Wellness with Ericka Abrams 07/05 by Power of Perception Radio Network | Spirituality Podcasts

Hello Friends,

Please take the time to enjoy this one hour interview where I discussed the connection between health and spirituality.

power of perception wellness with Ericka Abrams 07/05 by Power of Perception Radio Network | Spirituality Podcasts.