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Why Does My Baby Cry So Much? Info about Reflux.

Dec.05, 2015  |  Articles

baby-feet-836867_1920You’re sitting in a new moms class, and you notice that your baby is crying more than most in the class. You watch in amazement as many of the babies sleep and coo in their mothers’ arms, while yours is pulling his legs up, crying in distress.  You wonder to yourself, “Why does my baby cry so much?”

Having had two babies who cry a lot, I’ve learned something about what might cause the inconsolable crying and what you can do to help your baby, AND how you can keep your sanity during all of it.

As you’re pulling your hair out, worrying about your little one, doubting whether you’ll ever get more than two hours of sleep again, know this:

You are not alone.

It does get better.

You will get a full night of sleep again, and

Your sweet baby won’t suffer like this forever.

With our first baby, my husband and I didn’t learn about baby reflux until our newborn was about 6 weeks old.  Those were a long 6 weeks for my husband and me–and most importantly, for our baby.

Now I know that babies can suffer from reflux, also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  It’s like heartburn in adults. It makes babies miserable, and it can cause parents to feel especially exhausted and ineffective at soothing their babies.  The sooner you get a diagnosis and start treating it, the better your baby will feel. And so will you.

If your baby has any of these symptoms, he/she may have reflux:

  • Frequent or recurrent vomiting (unless it is silent reflux, which doesn’t entail as much spitting up)
  • Frequent or persistent cough
  • Crying that sounds hoarse
  • Refusing to eat or difficulty eating
  • Choking or gagging while feeding
  • Crying during feeding or after feeding
  • Heartburn, gas, or abdominal pain
  • Arching back, especially during or right after feeding
  • Drawing legs up in pain
  • Waking up screaming

How You Can Help Your Baby:

Ask your pediatrician about reflux and ask about strategies, such as these:

Make some changes in your diet, if you are breastfeeding.

Feed your baby in an upright position.

Burp baby frequently.

Meet with a breastfeeding consultant to learn feeding positions for reflux.

Keep baby upright for 20-30 minutes after each feeding.

Wear your baby in a baby carrier – the upright position and belly to belly pressure may soothe your baby.

Have baby sleep at an incline.

Consider medications like Zantac and Prevacid.

How You Can Help Yourself:

Don’t blame yourself.

Mothers of babies with reflux often feel guilty and blame themselves for not being able to effectively soothe their babies when they cry. It isn’t your fault that they have reflux. Reflux is painful, and it is hard, sometimes impossible, to make it better for them in the moment. Even in his crying, your baby knows you are there for him, holding him in your arms. You are doing a great job!

Get some sleep.

Sleep deprivation can affect mood, and can even lead to depression. So, nap when your baby naps, hire a night nurse, hire a babysitter, and ask a friend to watch your baby while you nap.

Take a long shower.

This may sound silly, but the basic act of taking a shower can help you feel refreshed, like the old you. And any mother will tell you just how hard it can be to have time for a shower when you have a newborn!

Go outside.

Going for a walk, sitting at an outdoor café, getting some fresh air and sunshine, all can give you a mood boost.

Get informed.

Ask your pediatrician about reflux, talk to other moms whose babies have reflux, schedule a breastfeeding consultation, and check out sources like these: www.babycenter.com, www.kellymom.com, and the Happiest Baby on the Block.

Communicate with your partner.

Share with him/her what you’re feeling and thinking, and find out what her/she is experiencing.  Parenting a newborn is a huge adjustment, and you two are in this together; so lean on each other.

Meet other parents.

Join a new moms group.  If you live in the DC area, the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington offers a free weekly group for breastfeeding mothers (www.breastfeedingcenter.org), and PACE offers support groups for new moms and 2nd time moms (www.pacemoms.org).

Don’t expect too much of yourself.

Set one goal a day like taking a shower or going for a walk.  Try not to stress about a messy house, with laundry and dishes to do. Your house will be tidy again…someday.  And if the mess is driving you crazy, hire a housekeeper or ask a loved one to help.

Ask for help.

Accept your neighbor’s offer to bring dinner over, or ask a relative to help with your laundry. If you think you have postpartum depression, schedule an appointment with a therapist and/or psychiatrist, talk to your pediatrician about it, and talk to your OBGyn.  Accepting help is good for you and your baby.  Do it for your baby.  Do it for your family.  Do it for you.

And, remember this:

You are not alone.

It will get better.

Much better.

(As I was writing this blog post, bouncing my newborn on my lap, he spit up all over me.)

 

 

 

I Shouldn’t Be So Stressed Out During the Holidays!

Nov.17, 2015  |  Articles

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As the holidays approach, you may find yourself thinking, “Why the hell am I so stressed out during the holidays? This should be a joyful time. It seems like everyone else is happy.”

You’re not alone! It is common for people to feel stressed out during the holidays. With the anticipation of all that the holidays entail, like family gatherings, travel, gift buying, taking time off from work, and spending money, people often experience a myriad of emotions, including excitement, relief, dread, and plenty of stress.

Try these 4 things to manage your stress this holiday season:

1) Stop judging yourself.

Judging yourself for feeling stressed out, when you think you should feel happy, just exacerbates the stress. So the first thing you can do is to stop judging yourself for feeling the way you do. Your feelings are your feelings—what you choose to do with them is what matters.

 2) Nurture yourself.

Do whatever it is that nurtures you. Meet a friend for coffee. Go for a run. Meditate. Eat your favorite meal. Get a massage. Take a nap. Watch a movie. Make time to do whatever it is that helps you unwind and relax.

3) Practice gratitude.

Keep a gratitude journal for 1 week. Maybe try it in honor of Thanksgiving? For 1 week, write down 3 things each day that you are thankful for. Examples are “I feel grateful for the sunshine today,” “I am grateful for being able to play piano,” and “I feel thankful for my best friend who always knows how to cheer me up.”

4) Ask for help.

If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you are at higher risk for feeling stressed out during the holiday season. Meeting with a therapist can help you learn strategies for managing your stress.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Questions for Couples Coping with Alzheimer’s

Oct.05, 2015  |  Articles

old-people-545232_1280   This article is the third of a three-part series that I have written on couples and their communication.  The first article looked at the needs of quarterlife couples, the second article addressed retirement-age couples, and the present article focuses on couples who are dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.

Currently, 5.3 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s; and by 2050, it is estimated that 14 million Americans will be diagnosed with it.  As a result of these trends, increasing numbers of couples are faced with this formidable disease when one spouse is diagnosed with it.  The memory loss and physical deterioration associated with Alzheimer’s are often difficult for couples to manage.  Seeking a diagnosis as early as possible provides couples a better opportunity to communicate about and prepare for the future before the disease progresses.

Couples can begin preparing for the changes associated with Alzheimer’s by discussing these 5 topics:

1)    How do you feel about finding out that one of you has Alzheimer’s disease?  What are your hopes, concerns, fears, and expectations about the disease?

2)    What is your understanding of Alzheimer’s disease?  Have you identified ways to obtain information and support, such as peer support groups, seminars, physicians, professional counseling, and online forums?  Have you contacted the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association?

3)    Are there particular experiences and/or meaningful conversations you would like to share with each other before the disease progresses?  When can you make time for it?  What needs to happen in order for you to accomplish it?

4)    Which family members, friends, and/or neighbors would you like to inform about the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s?  Whom can you depend on for support over the course of the disease?  Who will serve as the primary caregiver for the person with Alzheimer’s?

5)    Have you discussed financial and healthcare planning?  Have you completed legal paperwork, including a Last Will and Testament, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, and Living Will?  What are your thoughts and feelings about long-term care, such as in-home care, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes?

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5 Questions for Couples Approaching Retirement

Sep.03, 2015  |  Articles

connectedness-278507_1280  This article is the second of a three-part series that I’m writing on couples and communication. The first article addressed young couples, this one is for couples who are entering retirement, and the third one is for couples coping with Alzheimer’s disease.

Historically, the retirement phase of life was considered a relatively short period of people’s lives, in which they focused on rest and relaxation.  Now that people are living longer and the retirement phase lasts longer (an average of 30 years), retirees are spending these years of their life in new ways.  Many people still decide to spend time on activities, like playing golf, traveling more, visiting relatives frequently, or purchasing a vacation home. Yet, others are pursuing a passion they never had a chance to before, like writing a book, learning how to play a musical instrument, going back to school, volunteering for a charity, or trying out a new area of employment.  Additionally, retirees may be re-hired by their company as a part-time employee or contractor (re-hirement).  The possibilities are endless!

Because the retirement years are lasting longer, individuals and couples are spending much more of their lives in this phase. Thus, it is particularly important for couples to communicate about retirement and to prepare for it. Sometimes older couples feel that they have grown distant from each other over the years because of life’s many demands, such as childrearing and career obligations. Retirement is a wonderful opportunity to renew a couple’s closeness and intimacy.  Talking to each other about the following topics is a important first step to creating the retirement life you desire as a couple.

Five Questions for Couples Who are Approaching Retirement:

1) What are your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about retirement?  Are you excited about it?  Nervous?  Overwhelmed? Feeling lost?

2) How do you envision spending time in retirement?  Are you interested in particular activities or hobbies?  What needs to happen in order for you to feel ready to take these steps?

3) What are your feelings, thoughts, and values about spending and saving money in retirement? How much income do you want and need to have to sustain the lifestyle you desire?  Do you want or need to continue working for a while longer to cover your expenses?  Do you need to reevaluate how you are investing your money?  Have you created a Last Will & Testament?

4) Where would you like to live in retirement?  Do you plan to stay where you are?  Downsize? Buy a vacation home?  Live with or near one of your adult children?

5) What are your thoughts and feelings about aging?  Often retirement triggers feelings about growing older.  How is your health?  What are your plans for diet, exercise, and medical visits? Have you given each other a list of medications you’re taking?  Have you completed healthcare paperwork like a Living Will and a Healthcare Proxy?

After each of you answers these questions for yourself, share your ideas and feelings about retirement with your partner.  If you are struggling to create a plan, you may find it helpful to meet with a therapist who can guide you through these conversations.

Remember that this is an exciting time of your life, and you have a wonderful opportunity to be intentional about how you spend these years together!

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5 Questions that Quarterlife Couples Should Consider

Aug.03, 2015  |  Articles

washington-monument-580757_1280  While walking on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. last week, I noticed a couple engaged in a lengthy embrace and passionate kiss.  I smiled as I thought about how in love they seemed.  Then, I realized that the woman was crying and the man was hesitantly walking away from her, not looking back.  What I had seen as an expression of connection was actually that of separation.  This couple was breaking up.

As I continued on my walk, I contemplated the differences between couples who stay together and those who break up.  In my work with couples over the past decade, I have observed that couples who communicate effectively with each other seem to have a greater chance of resolving difficulties and staying together. Couples often tell me that they recognize that they need to improve their communication, but that they don’t know what they should be talking about or how to go about it.  They come to me looking for guidance on this.

As a result, I have decided to write a three-part series for couples who would like to improve their communication. This is the first article in the series, which addresses communication in young couples who are going through the quarterlife phase of life (couples in their 20’s and 30’s).  The second article addresses couples who are approaching retirement, and the third article looks at couples coping with Alzheimer’s disease.

Quarterlife Couples:

Often couples in their 20’s and 30’s are busy planning their future and making choices about marriage, children, careers, graduate school, home ownership, and financial security.  The following are five topics that quarterlife couples should be talking about:

1) What are your feelings, thoughts, and beliefs about marriage, monogamy, and childrearing?  If you want to have children, how many would you like to have?  Would you like to adopt children?  What needs to happen in order for you to feel ready to take these steps?

2) What are your feelings, thoughts, and values related to career and finances?  How much income do you want to have as an individual and as a couple?  What are your beliefs about saving, spending, philanthropy, and investments?

3) What are your religious and spiritual beliefs?  Would you like your partner to share your beliefs?  What are your expectations for involvement with a community of worship (i.e. church, mosque, synagogue, etc.)?

4) How much involvement with in-laws, extended family, and friends would you like to have?  What are your expectations?  How frequently would you like to talk to, visit, or receive visits from your friends and families?

5) Where would you like to live?  Do you see yourself settling down in one place or moving around?  Are there certain places you would not want to live?  Do you prefer a rural, urban or suburban setting?

These questions address many of the important topics that are covered in premarital counseling and the most common issues that married couples struggle with.   Communicating about these topics earlier on in a relationship can help couples prevent future conflicts and can pave the way for a satisfying marriage.

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Easy Steps to Great New Year’s Resolutions

Jan.01, 2014  |  Articles

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This blog post is for those of you who are skeptical about resolutions AND for those of you who are already sold on the idea.

Why is writing New Year’s resolutions important?

1. It is a wonderful opportunity to identify your hopes, desires, and dreams for your life.

2. It helps you organize and formalize your dreams into tangible goals.

3. It provides a way to evaluate the areas of your life that are working well and areas for improvement.

4. It gives you a sense of direction and purpose – helping you live an intentional life.

5. By helping you achieve your dreams, resolutions  increase the likelihood that you will experience a fulfilling, satisfying life.

 

I recommend getting a head-start on your New Year’s resolutions by writing them in December; so that you are ready to hit the ground running at the beginning of January.

A 5-Step Exercise for Writing New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Create a master list.

Take 10 minutes to brainstorm and write down all the things you’d like to do in the next year, in this case, 2014.   Write down every idea that occurs to you.  Do not self-edit or judge your ideas. Be sure to consider all areas of your life, like family, friends, hobbies, work, fitness, and spirituality.

2. Prioritize your master list.

Read over your master list, and circle the goals that are most important to you.  These circled items make up your prioritized list.

3. Divide your prioritized list into short-term and long-term goals.

For the purpose of this exercise, short-term goals are those that you can achieve in one year or less.  Long-term goals are those that you need more than one year to achieve.  Often people underestimate the amount of time required to accomplish a goal.  Try to be honest with yourself about this.

Looking only at the circled goals in the master list, place a star next to the goals that will require more than one year to achieve (your long-term goals).  Transfer these items to another piece of paper entitled “Long-term Goals.”  Save this list of long-term goals to work on at a later time.  (The present exercise is focused on developing short-term goals–goals you can achieve in 1 year or less)

Then, transfer those circled items on the master list WITHOUT a star next to them (your short-term goals) to a third piece of paper entitled, “New Year’s Resolutions.”

4. Streamline your list of New Year’s resolutions.

At this point in the exercise, your list should contain between 5 and 10 short-term goals.

Evaluate your list.  Are there any goals that you’d like to add or remove?  If you have fewer than 5, make sure you’ve considered all areas of your life (see Step #1 above).  If you have more than 10, you will need to reduce this list by prioritizing your goals, as you did with your master list in Step #2.

5. Make your resolutions specific and concrete.

Read your resolutions and make sure they are not too general.  After you make each resolution as specific as possible, write 2-3 tangible steps that you will take to reach your goal.  See the 2 examples below.

Bad example–too general and vague

1. Lose weight

a. Workout more.

b. Eat healthy meals more often.

c. Drink less alcohol.

Good example– specific and concrete

1. Lose 10 pounds by October 1, 2012

a. Jog 3 days/week.

b. Eat steamed vegetables 5 days/week.

c. Drink alcohol only on Fridays and Saturdays, and no more than 3 drinks each day.

 

Good luck developing your resolutions for the year!  You should be proud of yourself for going through this process and being intentional about how you want to spend your time and energy this year.

 

 

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Is a Marriage Contract a Good Idea?

Jun.11, 2013  |  Articles

bride-and-groom-905150_1280 I was interviewed on Huffington Post Live yesterday as part of a panel discussion. We discussed the pros and cons of marriage contracts, also known as love contracts, pre-marriage pacts, and lifestyle clauses.  Marriage contracts, which are gaining popularity, can include agreements about anything.  Some examples of expectations that couples have included in marriage contracts are number of days per week they will have sex, how many minutes of quality time to share each week, household chores they will be responsible for, frequency of exercise, and even how much weight they can gain.

Some argue that an agreement with this degree of detail limits spontaneity in the marriage.  I disagree.  Planning and spontaneity are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, planning can enhance spontaneity and creativity.  For example, I recommend that couples schedule time for sex, and some worry that doing so will make it feel less organic and natural.  To their surprise, often what they find is that having it scheduled creates a sense of anticipation and excitement.  Couples might even send each other sexy texts earlier in the day, and consider ways to make it fun and creative.  As they mentally prepare for sex, their bodies are warming up as well.

Although couples may choose not to legally formalize a marriage contract, they should still co-create a written relationship statement before they commit to a lifelong relationship.  A written agreement is helpful for couples because it provides a clear and structured process for communicating their expectations for marriage. Creating a relationship statement involves four steps: 1) First, identify your own expectations for marriage, 2) Communicate your expectations to your partner and learn what your partner expects, 3) Co-create a written statement that includes both partner’s expectations, and 4) Once you’re married, check in with each other quarterly to see how it’s going, and always leave some room for flexibility and adjustments.

Many of the couples I work with are unhappy in their marriages because they didn’t communicate enough about their expectations before they got married.  Couples often tell me that it was fear of conflict and breaking up that deterred them from discussing expectations earlier in the relationship.  When you’re planning to spend the rest of your life together, it’s wise to know as much as you can about each other’s expectations before you make that commitment.

In other words:  Transparency.  Transparency.  Transparency.

Marriage is one of life’s most beautiful and challenging experiences, and honest, open communication is the key.

Check out the HuffPost interview: http://huff.lv/13Slgbf

 

5 Ways to Cope with Family Gatherings

May.20, 2012  |  Articles

friends-581753_1280   As I enjoyed Mother’s Day brunch the other day, I observed several other families that had gathered for brunch at the restaurant.  A young family sat at one table nearby– the mother was using her iPad, the father was on his cell phone, and their young son was enjoying his food.  At another table a young woman sat quietly with a much older woman– maybe her grandmother?  At a larger (and rowdier) table, three generations of mothers and their extended family enjoyed conversation and laughter.

I was struck by the different moods of each family.  It reminded me that holidays like Mother’s Day can trigger various feelings for people, ranging from happiness and appreciation to loss and anger.  While for some people, the holidays provide an opportunity to celebrate and connect with loved ones, for others they are a reminder of previous family conflicts, loved ones who have passed away, or regret about the past.  Some people look forward to spending time with family at the holidays, some dread it, and others feel conflicted about it.

Here are 5 ways to cope with feelings about family gatherings:

1. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the gathering.
Feeling rested will reduce your risk of stress at the event by increasing your ability to think clearly and to be patient with your loved ones.

2. Begin your day with 15 minutes of alone time.
This helps give you a sense of inner peace and well-being.  Alone time can take many forms, such as a quiet stroll outside in nature, a hot bath, meditation, yoga, journaling, or sitting quietly.  Use this time to center yourself in your body and mind, to think about how you’d like the day to go, and to visualize a positive day.  Remind yourself that it is okay to have mixed feelings about spending time with family at the holidays.  Every family has its problems.

3. Prepare for stressful situations that might arise at the family gathering.
Decide ahead of time how you will handle potential problems at the gathering.  Will you try to resolve the problem? Will you leave the room?  Will you stay quiet?  Will you make a joke?  Developing a game plan beforehand will help you manage your stress at the gathering.

4. Practice deep breathing to stay calm in the moment.
If you start to feel tense at the gathering, try breathing deeply and slowly. Proper deep breathing focuses on expansion of the rib cage area, not the stomach.  Take a deep breath and slowly exhale to the count of four to six seconds. You can do this while sitting or lying down.  Repeat a minimum of five times.

5. Be sure to unwind after the family gathering.
Plan to do something enjoyable and relaxing at the end of the day.  This will give you an opportunity to reflect on your day and to enter tomorrow with a fresh start!

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Awareness of One’s Feelings

Oct.19, 2011  |  Articles

digital-art-398342_1280 I recently read a good article in the NY Times about Freud’s philosophy about feelings.  He believed (and I agree) that it is important to have an awareness of one’s feelings and to develop an ability to “tolerate ambivalent feelings” that one may experience.  Gordon Marino writes in the article that “those who are unaware of their feelings risk becoming puppets of those feelings.”

You can read the entire article here:
http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/freud-as-philosopher/?scp=1&sq=freud%20as%20philosopher&st=cse

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Article on Alzheimer’s Disease

Apr.17, 2011  |  Articles

Read Christine’s article on Alzheimer’s Disease

Click the link below to download PDF of Christine’s article.

Download PDF

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