Friday, December 20, 2013

Happy Holidays!

We're taking a break and our office will be closed for the next 2 weeks! We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy new year! We'll be back in 2014 with new and exciting posts!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Common breastfeeding concerns early postpartum: I don’t have enough breast milk!

A recent study examined first-time mothers’ breastfeeding concerns in the first weeks postpartum.  What they found from these interviews is that many mothers, about 40%, believed that they did not have enough breast milk.  So, why do so many women think that they don’t produce enough breast milk? While we don’t know the specific reasons these mothers were concerned about their milk supply, we do know from our own work that infant crying and waking in the first few days postpartum were commonly seen as hunger cues by new parents. Parents expected their babies would sleep and be content (not cry) if they were satisfied and full. So, if their newborns were crying a lot and not sleeping, they assumed the infants were not getting enough breast milk to satisfy them. While an extremely small number of women produce an insufficient amount of breast milk, for the majority of mothers, it is the perception that they don’t have enough milk that leads them to supplement with formula. That perception is often associated with the baby's behavior.

There is hope! When you know that it’s normal for your newborn to cry a lot and not sleep much in the early days, then you will be less likely to associate those behaviors with your baby being hungry  because you think you don't have enough breast milk to satisfy him. If you know that your baby needs to feed frequently and practice breastfeeding as much as possible then you won’t be surprised if your baby never seems to sleep! Having this information before you have your baby is the key!
It’s also important to be prepared for the reality of breastfeeding. For example, breast milk can take a while to “come in.” You may not feel any changes in your breasts for several days or even until after you leave the hospital. However, there is always breast milk present, even if you don’t feel it. In the beginning there is a small amount of colostrum, this is ALL your baby needs.  Soon, your breast milk will change (color and nutrient content) and increase in volume. This is when mothers think that their breast milk has officially “come in”, but it has actually been there the entire time, just in smaller amounts. This increase occurs anywhere between 24-72+ hours (15% of mothers' milk comes in after 72 hours postpartum) after delivery and depends on several factors. It’s also important to know that the amount of milk produced varies from woman to woman and even  from pregnancy to pregnancy.  You can see why many women think that they don’t have enough breast milk after their baby is born! It can be very confusing when a mom doesn’t feel the milk in her breasts and her  baby seems to be constantly crying and wanting to eat all the time. It’s a perfect storm that often leads to the perception that the baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Whether you or someone you know has had concerns about producing enough breast milk, know that you are not alone!  Here are a few other resources to help. The more you know about normal newborn behavior the more prepared and confident you will feel.

Answers to Mothers’ Common Questions about the First 3 Days Postpartum

Breastfeeding comes naturally, right? One story of a not-so-perfect start to breastfeeding

Life with a Newborn: Day 1

Life with a Newborn: Days 2 & 3


Wagner EA, Chantry CJ, Dewey KG, Nommsen-Rivers LA. Breastfeeding concerns at 3 and 7 days postpartum and feeding status at 2 months. Pediatrics. 2013;132(4):e865-75.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Holiday Special: Gift Giving

It's that time of year! Let the gift giving begin! It can be challenging to find just the right gift for your little one. So, we have some great ideas on how to choose the right gift for your baby's personality. Try this post: Choosing the Right Gift for Baby.

But you won't just be giving gifts this year, you'll be receiving them too! What happens when you get an unwanted or inappropriate gift? Check out Saying No to Unwanted Baby Gifts for some ways to handle this awkward situation.

Remember, the best gift you (and others) can give to your baby this season is the time you spend together, gadget-free.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Baby Language Quiz - Answers!

Here are the answer's to this week's quiz:

Typically, how old are babies/toddlers when they:
1. Consistently respond to their own names?

Around 6 months. At the same age, babies will look longer at people who are named, showing that they have linked names with people like "mommy," "daddy," and other close relatives.

2. Start to use a few words consistently with meaning (not just understanding but saying the words themselves with obvious meaning)?

Around 12 months. You'll notice that your baby understands words much earlier than he says them. He will first understand then use new words (often mispronounced) at an amazing rate as his first birthday passes. Remember to pay attention to what words your baby hears from you or any other source. Babies are sponges, soaking everything up including words you wouldn't want shouted out at a family gathering.

3. Use cooing and other noises specifically to attract your attention?

As early as 3 months, your baby will be using sounds that she knows will attract your attention. Remember, your baby loves looking at your whole face and listening to your voice. She is trying to learn as much as she can from you. If you respond to her softer sounds, she'll have less reason to resort to shrieking.

4. Start to combine words into short noun-verb sentences?

Around 20 to 24 months, your baby will start to use sentences and combinations of words. Even though your baby might still shorten or mispronounce words, you'll notice that he seems to follow basic grammar  rules in that he is using words in a specific order, like "I go."

5. First recognize friendly or angry tones in others' voices.

Around 6 months, your baby will respond more positively to friendly voices and negatively to angry ones. She's been watching and learning from you and has learned to prefer nicer tones of voice. Keep in mind that your baby might become upset if she is nearby when people are arguing even if she doesn't understand what is being said.

Infant Development 2nd Edition, Volume 1: Basic Research. Bremner and Wachs (Eds). Wiley-Blackwell. 2010.

Stamm, J. Bright from the Start. Gotham Books, 2007.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Baby Language Quiz!

We realized that we haven't had a quiz in a long time, so here we go. Our topic is children's language development.

Typically, how old are babies/toddlers when they:
1. Consistently respond to their own names?
2. Start to use a few words consistently with meaning (not just understanding but saying the words themselves with obvious meaning)?
3. Use cooing and other noises specifically to attract your attention?
4. Start to combine words into short noun-verb sentences?
5. First recognize friendly or angry tones in others' voices.

We'll post the answers on Friday!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving! We're taking a few days off, but we'll be back with all new posts next week.

From The UC Davis Human Lactation Center

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Traveling with Your Baby this Holiday Season

The tradition continues this year as we share our tips for traveling with your infant and/or toddler. Here are a few posts to help make this holiday season a smooth one!

We hope you have a safe and happy holiday!

The UC Davis Human Lactation Center

*Photo courtesy of Jen G. This is her daughter, Lily, Thanksgiving 2008.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Bringing Your Toddler to Holiday Parties

By Jennifer Goldbronn

Last time, we shared some tips for making it easier for you and your baby to deal with the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings. What about older babies and toddlers? What can you do to help them stay calm and happy? Here are some ideas to keep in mind.

1. Older babies have great memories! They remember if Aunt Rita always tries to take them away from you for that big hug. Family members are often very excited to see your baby! This can come across a bit scary to a baby that has someone rushing up to them and excitedly clapping or talking to them in a high pitched voice. Babies also remember how their parents reacted to certain family members. If you tense up when Aunt Rita comes running toward you, your baby will see your tension and learn that you think that Aunt Rita is scary too!
2. Toddlers learn about their world by creating scripts in their minds for common occurrences (like bedtime or getting dressed) and by assigning “jobs” to the people in their lives (i.e. every night Dad gives me a bath, mom reads me a story). For people that your baby does not see very often, babies may be more apprehensive with them because they don’t know what their job is.
3. As older babies gain the ability to move away from their caregiver (crawl, walk, etc.), they also develop an instinct that tells them to stay close to their caregiver. This is important for their safety but can also make family gatherings challenging when everyone wants to hold your baby.

Tips for navigating holiday gatherings

Now that you understand why older babies behave the way they do in these types of situations, we want to share some tips to help you through the upcoming holiday season!

·         Explain what you know about your baby and set boundaries with family members. Make sure they give your baby time to warm up first.

·         Watch your own facial expressions and body language. If you are worried that a particular family member will rush up and try to grab her from you before she is ready, your baby will know! You may be nervous or frustrated for other reasons and these feelings show as well. If you enter a party rushed and stressed, your baby will see it in your face and may become upset when introduced to people right away. So, try to smile and relax when introducing your baby to people!

·         Create a routine for when you see family members and talk her your toddler though it. Tell her what she is about to see and do. Your family members might think it is odd, but they will get used to it after a while. For example, whenever you get to a new party, sing the same song before you go in the door and introduce your child to everyone in the same way.

·         Change your expectations. Knowing your baby’s normal development at this age, don’t be surprised if he or she wants to stay near you the whole time! It’s OK! If others want to hold her, have them stay close by so that your baby can still see you. Given time and familiarity, your toddler eventually will calm down and enjoy the party too.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Bringing Your Baby to Holiday Parties

The holidays are here again and for some of you, it will be your first holiday season as parents. We have a few posts that you might want to review as you get ready for family dinners and other holiday events.

1. Learn why your baby might shy away from loving friends and family and what you can do about it.

2. Learn how to prevent meltdowns from your baby having "too much fun."

3. Learn more about how babies differ in their response to socializing and stimulation during the holidays and beyond.

4. Get some tips to help you deal with visiting other people's homes with your busy baby.

We'll be back next time with some tips to help your toddler deal with all the holiday fun!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Baby Behavior is in Kansas!

We're spending the week in Kansas! We'll be training WIC and other public health program staff to train their fellow colleagues about infant behavior. We are so excited! We'll be back next week with all new posts!

Picture courtesy of

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

In the News: Babies Teach Social Emotional Learning

We recently read an article about a school-based program called Roots of Empathy that helps children learn about emotions by having them spend time with babies.  This news story reported that through this program, children in the classroom are encouraged to observe the babies’ development and label the babies' feelings. They then discuss those feelings and relate them to their own. Sounds a bit like reading cues to us! So, how does social emotional learning (SEL) work?

Social emotional learning is “the process of acquiring core competencies to recognize and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, appreciate the perspectives of others, establish and maintain positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle interpersonal situations constructively.”  (Durlak 2011) SEL programs help children develop healthy behaviors related to self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making.
Special school-based programs, like Roots of Empathy, teach social emotional learning in two ways. Students learn how to process and apply social and emotional skills, such as labeling and understanding emotions, appropriately. These skills are taught by modeling and practice so that the children can apply them in real life situations.

How does all of this fit with baby behavior education?
Learning how to recognize and respond to baby cues improves babies' relationships, but it doesn’t have to end there. Teaching siblings or other children about baby behavior, how to understand the baby’s emotions and needs, is not just helpful for parents and babies; it may also be beneficial for the older child as well.

SEL programs are associated with lower levels of problem behaviors and emotional distress, improved academic performance, improved attitudes about self and others, and increased positive social behaviors such as sharing and helping others.
Incorporating SEL at home

If you have older children, teach them about the cues that your baby uses to communicate. Encourage your children to use the cues to “play detective” to see if they can figure out what the baby needs. They will love the challenge and enjoy feeling helpful. Your older child will feel more in control as you teach him or her how to tell when baby needs a break from playtime and your baby will be happier because of it! As your child begins to identify cues and emotions of your baby, talk with them about their own emotions. By helping them label their baby brother or sister’s cues and feelings, they will become more aware of their own feelings. 

Roots of Empathy Program:

Durlak JA, Weissberg RP, Dymnicki AB, Taylor RD, Schellinger KB. The impact of enhancing students' social and emotional learning: a meta-analysis of school-based universal interventions. Child Dev 2011;82(1):405-32.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Have a fun and safe Halloween! We'll be back next week with all new posts. Keep in mind, overstimulation is common at parties and during trick-or-treating! So, keep an eye out for disengagement cues. Here are a few posts to jog your memory about the specifics of preventing overstimulation.

Secrets of Baby Behavior: Overstimulation

Baby Behavior Basics Part 3 – Learning and Creating Your Baby’s Special Language (includes disengagement cues)

Reader Question: Visiting Friends with our Baby

Too Much Fun: Preventing Overstimulation in Infants and Toddlers

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baby's (and Toddlers) Day at the Zoo - Part 2

Last week (after my adult daughter and I had spent a day at the San Diego zoo), we shared some tips to help you plan your own trip to the zoo with your baby or toddler. In this post, we'll share more of our experience and offer some Baby Behavior-related suggestions to help you have more fun and less stress during your day at the zoo.

On the day of your trip...
1. Be ready to play games in the lines. My daughter and I saw many parents waiting with their children in the long lines at the gate. The happiest groups were prepared with plenty of age-appropriate distractions for the kids. Their older kids were playing "eye spy" and the babies and toddlers were playing peek-a-boo or looking nearby for shapes and colors. Games played in lines don't have to be elaborate. Repetitive games that encourage your baby or toddler to use her senses and mind work best.

2. Support safe exploration. Zoos and large parks are wonderful but potentially dangerous places. Many parents worry about their children getting lost in public places. We know that you'll take care to keep your toddler close to you but you'll need to keep a close watch on everything your toddler is doing. Healthy toddlers will actively explore the world around them. That's how they learn. In zoos, there are non-stop opportunities for your child to pick things up off the ground, fall on uneven surfaces, slip on wet pavement, or get knocked over by a crowd straining to see an animal exhibit. We saw a couple of little ones get pressed up against the window by a crowd at the lion enclosure after their parents pushed them forward to get a better look.We don't want you to be paranoid about it, we just you to recognize that someone's eyes are going to need to be on your toddler nearly all of the time. In a big zoo, it is best to bring other adults so you can take turns watching the kids.

3. If you use a backpack, remember that your baby needs "face time." We saw many parents carrying babies and toddlers in backpacks. Obviously, carrying your baby on your back can make your trip much easier, but your baby needs you to be part of her learning. We saw excited happy babies in backpacks pointing around the park while another adult (often mom or grandma) talked to them about what they were seeing. Unfornately, we also saw a few parents carrying their unhappy and frustrated babies without ever talking to the children or looking back at them. It didn't take long for their babies to lose interest and glaze over. Remember, even the most exciting zoo sites won't be fun if you aren't involved in your baby's experience.

4. Watch for your baby's cues. Your baby will let you know when he's had enough of the sounds, sights, and smells at the park. Watch for cues that your baby is getting overwhelmed or tired. Just taking a break in some quiet shady spot or letting your baby nap in your arms can make a huge difference. You can stop the meltdowns before they get started.

5. Tell park staff right away if your baby drops or throws anything into an enclosure. When we were looking at the giant tortoise, an excited preschooler threw a cap from a soda bottle into the enclosure just as his group moved away. He didn't really know what he was doing and his parents (busy with other children) didn't notice what he had done. We stopped a park volunteer and let her know what happened and they took care of it right away. These things can be embarrassing but the park staff understand that young children will be impulsive. Even small pieces of plastic can be dangerous for animals, so let someone know.

6. Some exhibits require children to be quiet, so be realistic and think twice about standing in long lines. The San Diego zoo has a world famous giant panda exhibit that is well worth seeing. The animals are so popular that the wait time in line to see them can be 45 minutes or more. Because Pandas have such sensitive hearing, the staff must ask visitors to be quiet when they are close enough to see the animals. If your child is too young to keep from squealing, screaming, or shouting, you might want pass on exhibits that require quiet visitors. It is not a matter of discipline or parenting; babies and toddlers have very limited ability to control themselves. Just be realistic; you know your child best.

7. Give your child time to get emotionally ready to leave the park. We saw many toddlers who were very upset when they had to leave the park. While it is hard for any child to give up having fun, most do much better when they have some warning. Some children are fine with a moment or two, others need 10 or 20 minutes to get used to ending a fun activity. The difference isn't a matter of discipline, its temperament. You are likely to know how long your baby needs to adjust to change. Don't forget the simple step of letting your child know ahead of time when you are ready to leave the zoo.

8. Get your baby/toddler ready for the gift shop, before you go in. Zoo gift shops are chaotic places. Even if your baby or toddler is able to understand what she can and cannot have, she may be overwhelmed by all the noise and excitement. Let your child know what is ok and not ok before you go inside and be sure to watch for cues. If your child does have a meltdown, having another adult who can stand in line for purchases while you step outside can be a big help.

Zoos are wonderful places to take children no matter what their age. We hope you use your knowledge of your baby's behavior to make the day more enjoyable for both of you.

(Photo Credit: Adrienne Heinig)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Baby's Day at the Zoo - Part I

Recently, my adult daughter and I had an opportunity to visit the San Diego Zoo. It is an amazing place and we had a wonderful day. As you might expect, we were surrounded by families from all over the world, many with babies and toddlers. Zoos and large parks are great places to take children, especially when you've done your homework and made a plan well ahead of time. In today's post, we'll share some tips to help you plan your zoo-day. Next time, we'll share some of what we learned on the day of our trip that might help make your experience as safe and as fun as possible.

Before you go....
1. Consider the cost (including admission, shows, food, water, and souvenirs) given that your baby or toddler may not be able to stay through the entire day or enjoy all of the activities. Even a stroller can get hot and uncomfortable, so don't count on one to get you through to the next exhibit after the meltdowns begin.

2. Create a realistic schedule/plan for your day that allows for meals, breaks, and rest time (for you and your baby). Go during the part of the day when your baby is most likely to be happy and alert. Large zoos take a long time to get through. If your baby is very young, you might want to concentrate in one area or choose a smaller zoo.

3. Prioritize the animals/sites you want to see. Even if your toddler can stay awake through most of the day, he might get overwhelmed by all the new sites and sounds. By mid-afternoon, we saw more than a few miserable parents with fussy babies and cranky toddlers. Most zoos have maps you can see online. If your toddler is old enough to help, make a list of your favorite animals together!

4. Speaking of maps, make sure you know the layout including distances, hills, and bathrooms! Find the routes that work best for your situation and fitness level. We saw a lot of tired parents pushing double strollers up steep hills!

5. Bring a crowd, or at least a couple of helpful adults to help. Excited children can wiggle away in an instant. It's always best to have more than 2 eyes or arms in such an exciting and potentially dangerous place. We were happy to see a lot of extended family members, especially with toddlers. Just make sure that every one knows who is watching your child at all times.

Next time, we'll share what we observed and learned during our time in San Diego to help your day at the zoo be more fun for you and your child.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

In the News: Full Term Pregnancy is Now Defined as at least 39 Weeks

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has changed the definition of “Full Term” pregnancy to delivery between 39 weeks and 40 weeks, 6 days.  Research shows better health and developmental outcomes for babies born within this time frame.  Babies born at 37 weeks have a higher risk of complications compared to those born at 39 weeks.  Thus “Early Term” is defined as a baby born between 37 weeks and 38 weeks 6 days.  Babies born in the 41st week are “Late Term” and babies born after 42 weeks are “Post Term.”
In California, we are experiencing beautiful weather. So, on Friday, we'll be back to Baby Behavior with a series on how to have a successful outing with your infant at the zoo!

Friday, October 18, 2013

What You Wish You Had Known After Your Baby was Born

Last time, we asked a question about things you wish you had known right after your baby was born. Thank you for your responses! Today we will share a few of the responses and some helpful posts to go with each. Please share these tips with families you know that have new babies!

I Wish I Had a Plan for Breastfeeding Help

Many parents wished they had been more prepared for what breastfeeding would be like and had a plan in place to get help if needed.

Breastfeeding comes naturally, right? One story of a not-so-perfect start to breastfeeding


I Wish I Knew How Babies Really Sleep

Other parents felt like they needed more information about normal infant sleep and what to expect about sleep patterns in the first few months.


I Wish I Asked for More Help

From my own personal experience, I wish I had asked for more help, especially during the newborn period. I thought I should be able to do it all myself and I ended up sleep-deprived to the point of being not functional! Here are a few posts to help you ask for help!

Getting the Help You Need Part 3. Dealing with Help that You are Better Off Without

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Question for Our Readers!

Today we are doing things a little bit differently. We want to ask you, our loyal readers, a question. Then next time we'll share your answers as well as our own personal experiences.

What is one thing you wish you would have known after your baby was born?

Please leave a comment below with your answer! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Learning to Talk Takes a Team Effort

It is amazing how quickly babies change. They grow so fast, learn so much, and gain some control over their bodies so quickly during those first few months. Before you know it, your baby is using words!  Learning to talk becomes one of your baby’s most important jobs as he becomes a toddler.  We’ve shared how babies develop their ability to communicate starting with basic cues and words during the first year that lead to a vocabulary explosion in the second year.
But did you know that you play an important role in your baby’s progress in learning how to talk? Babies don’t learn language on their own, they rely on the people who care for them to help them know what words mean and how and when to use them. Here are some language experts' “lessons learned” from the research on how babies learn to understand and use language.
  1. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
Developmental scientists have found that the most important factor influencing a child’s vocabulary is the “language environment.” Babies learn the words that they hear around them (keep that in mind when you stub your toe). Babies first learn the words they hear most often – such as their own names, and words used for clothing items and household objects.  When your baby is able to point to objects, you’ll find that your baby seems to want to play the “name game “all day long. This is a very important process. Not only will your baby point at things for you to name but your baby will look at your face to see how you “feel” about the object.  Your baby is learning a lot more than words; your baby is learning about safety and context and where things and people fit in the world.
  1. Babies understand language before they can use it.
For a long time, researchers thought that understanding language occurred much later than it actually does for most babies. That’s because scientists had to rely on tests that required that babies demonstrate some use of language (like naming objects or following directions). But, many babies didn’t do well on the tests because they were still learning to make consistent sounds with their mouths and to control their bodies. Newer tests show that babies can understand many words and even the structure of language far before they can use words to communicate. That means that for a while, you’ll have to play “translator” for your baby, figuring out what she needs and communicating those needs back to her and to others.
  1. Learning and using language relies on multiple skills and different parts of babies’ brains.
The use of language (not just words) takes a lot of brain power. Babies need to use their sensory, memory, analytical, motor, and social skills all at once to communicate with the world. That means that many parts of their brains are used when they are learning and using words.  You play a very special role in this process.  Your baby needs you to be on “his team” to make it all happen.  Let your baby explore, hear you talk, see your face, and watch your emotional responses to objects and experiences. Make sure that your baby has plenty of chances to see how you interact with other people in positive ways. Support your baby’s efforts as he tries to communicate with you and others. Take the time to see how your baby uses his whole body and brain to interact with his world. It’s an exciting and fast paced process as your baby will double his usable vocabulary between 18 and 21 months and again from 21 to 24 months.   Go team!
Hollich G. Early Language. In: Infant Development. 2nd Edition. Volume 1. Basic Research. JG Bremner and TD Wachs (Eds.). Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back to School!

Classes at UC Davis have started up again so we're taking the week off! We'll see you next week with new posts.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Our Top 5 "Sleep" Blogs!

Infant sleep is by far the most popular topic on our blog. So, we decided to find out which sleep posts were the most popular (highest number of page views). Here is what we found:

#5: The Science of Infant Sleep Part II: Big Changes in Sleep Patterns (6 to 16 weeks)
In this post we talk about the big changes in sleep patterns that occur between 6 and 16 weeks of age. Babies’ sleep starts to get more predictable and parents may be giving a sigh of relief that the 1st 6-weeks are over! The biggest change is that babies start falling into deep sleep instead of light sleep around 4-months of age. They also start sleeping for longer periods.

One of the behaviors that can mislead parents is that some babies wake up every time you try to put them down for a nap after a feeding. This post explains why that happens.
In this post, we explore the topic of sleep training and explain why we don’t agree with the concept. We encourage parents to understand normal infant sleep patterns and talk about why babies need to wake up at night for their own health and safety.

Here we introduce how babies sleep during the 1st 6-weeks and the 2 types of sleep. We talk about dreaming and brain development and how to help newborns sleep a little better.
And the top infant sleep post…with almost 3 times the number of page views than the second place post is…

#1: Why Do Some Babies Hate Being Drowsy?

Our most popular post addresses the baby who gets very fussy and upset every time he or she is drowsy. You may know one of these babies! We explain why this happens and provide tips for dealing with a baby who hates being drowsy.

What is your favorite post? What post has been the most helpful to you?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Postpartum Fatigue: Part 3 -Tips to Fight Fatigue

In part 1 of this series we introduced postpartum fatigue, complete with how common it is (VERY common!) and what can contribute to it. In part 2 we covered how fatigue effects parenting specifically. Now in the final part of this series we will share evidence-based tools to help you deal with postpartum fatigue. 

First you’ll want to rule out common postpartum causes of fatigue such as anemia, thyroid dysfunction, or infection (such as urinary tract infection, gynecological infection following delivery or mastitis). (Corwin 2007)
Now we’ll share some other tools. Feel free to pick and choose which will work best in your life. The key is to do things every day to take care of yourself, even if you don’t feel like you have the energy to do so. Remember, this time will not last forever. Your baby (and you) will sleep longer as he or she gets older. We promise! We’ve been there!

Tips to Fight Fatigue

·       One study reported that the Chinese practice of zuo yuezi (intensive family support to prevent fatigue) should be considered as a tool to reduce fatigue. This practice includes social seclusion and regulated rest.(MCQueen 2003)

·       Learn about what to expect from your baby’s sleep patterns. When you know what to expect you can work your sleep schedule around theirs.

·       Conserve energy. How? Here are a few ideas:

o   Have others make meals or run errands for you

o   Restrict any unnecessary activities or get help with them

o   Prepare meals ahead of time and freeze for later

·       Take time out, away from being a mom, to do a favorite activity on a regular basis. We know this is easier said than done, but it will leave you feeling more refreshed and ready to give 100% to your kids when you return.

·       Improve your diet. Eating a well-balanced diet with small frequent meals will give you more energy!

·       Increase your exercise. Exercise will increase your energy and decrease fatigue symptoms. One study found a decrease in physical and mental fatigue with an average of about 124 minutes a week of exercise. That's about 4-30 minute sessions. (Drista 2009)

·       Reduce your normal daily demands. Re-ordering your priorities prenatally can really help you prepare for life after baby.

o   Consider which tasks are essential vs. non-essential and limit the non-essential ones. What is most important for you to get done?

o   Establish routines to save time and energy

o   Prepare meals in the morning so you can rest in the afternoon or evening)

·       Maintain regular sleep routines.

·       Allow time for rest every day. Limiting visitors so you can rest is important. Discuss best times for visits that don’t interfere with rest periods.

·       Get real. Having realistic parenting expectations about taking care of your baby and your household is helpful! Remember, things don’t have to be perfect during this challenging time. Also, expect less sleep! Then you won’t be disappointed when it happens.

·       Get help! Enlist support before it is needed, when you are pregnant.

·       Lie on your side to breastfeed while in the hospital.  One study showed that this helped moms get more rest.

Sleep deprivation and fatigue should be taken seriously. They effect your physical and mental well-being and how you parent. Be patient with yourself if you are currently experiencing fatigue and please try the tips above. They can make you feel at least a little bit more rested. Let us know which of these tips or others have worked for you in the past. You may just help someone else!

Varcho MS, Hill PD, Anderson M. Evaluation of the Tiredness Management Guide: a pilot study. Appl Nurs Res. 2012;25(2):123-8.

Kurth E, Kennedy HP, Spichiger E, Hösli I, Stutz EZ. Crying babies, tired mothers: what do we know? A systematic review. Midwifery. 2011;27(2):187-94.

Dritsa M, Dupuis G, Lowensteyn I, Da Costa D. Effects of home-based exercise on fatigue in postpartum depressed women: who is more likely to benefit and why? J Psychosom Res. 2009;67(2):159-63.

Corwin EJ, Arbour M. Postpartum fatigue and evidence-based interventions. MCN Am J Matern Child Nurs. 2007;32(4):215-20.

McQueen A, Mander R. Tiredness and fatigue in the postnatal period.J Adv Nurs. 2003 Jun;42(5):463-9.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Postpartum Fatigue: Part 2 - Effects on Parenting

In part 1 of this series we talked about postpartum fatigue, how common it is, and also things that can increase the risk for or contribute to it. Now in part 2, we’ll explore how fatigue can affect parenting.

While postpartum fatigue may be an inevitable part of parenting a young baby, it’s important to be aware of how it affects you as a parent. Fatigue can result in forgetfulness, irritability, lack of physical stamina, and an inability to concentrate. (McQueen 2003) Studies also show how fatigue can impact parenting specifically. Here’s how.
Fatigue can:
  • Increase parental stress
  • Limit patience in dealing with infant crying
  • Decrease parenting satisfaction
  • Decrease parent confidence in the ability to interact with the child
  • Cause parents to become more irritable and easily frustrated with child’s behavior (and expectations of behavior, behavior seen as more demanding)
  • Result in parents being less warm and affectionate
  • Decrease involvement with child, as in shared activities
  • Make it harder to plan and problem solve
We understand this might sound a little depressing, but knowing is half the battle, right? Just being aware that fatigue can affect you and how you parent in these ways will help you have more patience with yourself and maybe even convince you that postpartum fatigue is a big deal, maybe a bigger deal than most people realize. Hopefully that will encourage you to get help from family and friends during this challenging time and rest whenever possible. In our next post we will share tips and tools to help you fight fatigue! There are definitely some things you can change that can make your life a little easier.

McQueen A, Mander R. Tiredness and fatigue in the postnatal period. J Adv Nurs. 2003 Jun;42(5):463-9.