Common Bond of Parenthood

There is nothing subtle about the common bond of parenthood, as shown at the end of this video sponsored by Similac, a formula company.  I’m practically certain that an anti-formula group of breastfeeding (BF) zealots would never have sponsored such a video.  The last thing the BF zealots want to show is that there is even a hint of commonality between moms who BF and moms who formula feed.

What is the common bond?  Well, as you’ll see by watching this video, it’s that parents are–regardless of our parenting style or choices–parents.  Period.  The video even has a group of men (whether they are single parents or stay-at-home-dads is not clear), which is Similac’s intent to bring fathers into the picture, because after all, fathers are parents too.  Parents have a desire and obligation to do the best they can to care for their children with the means best suited for them.  Our children are our responsibility.  We brought them into the world.

At the end of the video, when a baby and parent need help, everyone–regardless of their parenting style or choices–drops their differences and runs to the aid of that baby and parent.  Now, that’s what it SHOULD be all about.  Forget about stupid and meaningless mommy wars.  Putting aside our differences and recognizing and respecting each others’ differences– instead of putting up walls to separate ourselves from those that are different from us– is what it should all be about.  Non first-time parents know what it’s like to be a parent for the first time and know how challenging taking care of a newborn baby and being a first-time parent really is.   Wouldn’t it be nice if experienced parents shared their experience with other new parents instead of thinking “Well, I learned the hard way, so can he/she.” Wouldn’t it also be nice if there were parent support groups in EVERY community, not just here or there and not known to/hard to find by the vast majority of those seeking support?  Parenting is about community, not about individual parents in isolation, left to their own devices because of how they choose to parent.

It takes a community to parent, period.  You can’t go it alone.  And you should not have to.

For added perspective from a writer and advocate for mothers whom I admire very much, please visit Suzie Barston’s Fearless Formula Feeder’s blog post about this video.  It’s titled “You’re Proving the Point.”

And another piece written by Amy Newman titled “Let’s Lower Stakes in Breastfeeding Debate.”

Spotlight on the Royal Birth

Wow, two posts in two days!  This is a record!  Everyone else has been blogging, tweeting, commenting on news articles, and talking about the royal birth.  I figured I might as well too.  I was all set to go to bed at midnight, which for me is early, but I had to check something on the computer and then all of a sudden I found myself feeling the sudden urge to blog about the royal birth.

Was I obsessed as some people were about Kate and William and their much-anticipated prince or princess?  No, not really.  Then why am I blogging about it?  Well, for one thing, I’m annoyed.  From morning til night, all I saw in my Facebook feed were comments about the royal birth.  Let me clarify.  I’m not so much annoyed by the amount of coverage as I am about the number of people that are annoyed about the amount of coverage and the nasty ol’ things that they had to say about it all.

As with everything including politics and religion, there will be the extreme camps.  In this case, you have the people who don’t give a rat’s butt about the royal family, angry that we are focusing so much on a baby’s birth (something that happens every second around the world) instead of more relevant issues like the state of our country and our economy, insisting that no one here gives a hoot (but plenty of people around the world and in this country do give a hoot or else why would there be such excessive coverage?).  While the other extreme camp has gone on and on and on for weeks leading up to the childbirth to try to predict the baby’s sex and what the baby’s name will be.  And then you’ll have what I refer to as the neutral camp who just want to go with the flow and carry on with their daily routines and not really care about the coverage in the news about the royal family.

I happen to belong to the neutral camp.  That is, until I was triggered.  What was I triggered by?  But of course, the meanness in people.  Meanness that stems from ignorance!  Yes, I stumbled across some mean comments/tweets on today’s Christian Monitor article titled “First glimpse of British prince brings comments about mom’s postpartum body.”  As soon as I saw the title, I thought to myself  “Do I honestly want to see the comments, which will no doubt be extremely ignorant and dumb, to put it mildly?”  I braced myself and read through the comments and quickly grew infuriated.  When I saw Kate and William walk through the hospital door earlier in the day to introduce their baby to the world, I instantly thought “Uh boy, Kate is still showing her bump, and I will bet you any amount of money that that will be the cause of a lot of mean-spirited comments from a public that is already weary of the extensive coverage about the royal birth.”  And here we are.

People calling her fat. <– omg, Kate, fat?  What, are these people nuts?  If she’s fat, then that makes me an elephant.  Ridiculous.

People joking that it looks like she’s still pregnant. <– Well, duh….this is how ALL mothers look after they have a baby.  And all mothers and their husbands/significant others know this because they have been through this themselves and know that you simply don’t blink away the belly that has been carrying a baby for the past 9 months.  It’s just NOT POSSIBLE.  What do people think really happens after childbirth, anyway?  That the entire contents of the belly simply come out with the baby, and that’s it?  What about all the skin and muscle that have had to stretch over the course of 9 months to accommodate the growing baby?!  I may have dropped my weight rapidly, thanks to the postpartum depression (PPD) that caused me to UNWILLINGLY lose my appetite and not want to eat anything for several weeks….this, after being literally starved for a week in the hospital after having my baby because my doctor wanted me to be prepared to go into surgery at any moment’s notice, thanks to my placenta accreta.  BUT I still had a residual belly when I left the hospital.

People joking that perhaps there’s still a twin in there. <– This is such a stupid comment that I’m not even going to address this.

What these idiotic comments show is that the image of a perfect postpartum body–thanks to celebrities and their personal trainers and not showing themselves in public until their tummies are gone–that the media focuses unhealthily on is causing the general public to have this unrealistic expectation of mothers all miraculously ridding themselves of their bellies and returning to their pre-pregnancy bodies immediately after they give birth.  I have blogged about this previously, and I’m actually quite sick and tired of this…I really am.

So, if women who have been through pregnancy can all vouch for the fact that the rapid return to pre-pregnancy selves is a myth, then why does this false perception continue to exist?  I’ll tell you why.  Because they don’t want others to know about their struggles to return to their pre-pregnancy selves, much like mothers who have suffered from PPD don’t want others to know out of feelings of guilt and shame that they didn’t experience the perfect childbirth experience they’ve been longing to have and society expects all mothers to have.

So…..with mothers not speaking up, the only examples we see are the celebrities flaunting their perfectly fit, postpartum bodies for all the world to see.  Therein lies the problem that we continuously and persistently perpetuate in one annoying, vicious cycle.

Last night, I saw a USA Today article titled “Will and Kate: New parents face joy, challenges” come up in my Facebook feed.  At first glance, when I saw that it was another article about the pending royal birth, I was going to skip it.  But then I saw who was interviewed for it.  My friend Dr. Diane Sanford, psychologist in St. Louis and co-author of Life Will Never Be the Same: The Real Mom’s Postpartum Survival Guide.  I read it, and I was quite pleased to find that it offers refreshingly REALISTIC information about what Kate and William–like all other parents–should expect when it comes to becoming a mom and dad for the first time.  It was, quite frankly, a really great platform to educate on the realities of having a baby and parenthood…after all, it’s an article about the ROYAL BIRTH in USA Today, and bound to generate a good number of views.  So, I applaud the fact that Dr. Sanford was called upon as a resource for educating the public. It’s NOT just an article about the royal family’s baby boy.

I can only pray that, over time, the number of smart articles educating the public about the realities of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period will increase so there will be fewer articles spreading false perceptions of what it’s like to have a baby.   More education will mean less idiotic remarks like the ones people have been making about the Duchess…who by the way, was brave for showing the world her REAL postpartum body!

Shame on You, The Guardian, for Perpetuating Negative Notions on Mental Health Issues AND Denigrating Men at the Same Time

In response to an article in the UK’s The Guardian written by Barbara Ellen and titled “‘Postnatally depressed’ dads? Give me a break.” and subtitled “Can’t females have anything just for themselves, without men barging in, not even a foul debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” please see Lauren Hale’s wonderful rebuttal.  And another rebuttal I discovered, thanks to Lauren, on the Mind Hacks blog.

I especially love this part from Lauren’s post:

This is not solely a male v. female issue. This is not men attempting to lay claim to “…a foul, debilitating condition directly related to the physical act of pregnancy and childbirth?” This is a family issue, just as it is with a mom. This is a mental health issue. Men, yes, are capable of experiencing depression. It doesn’t make them any less of a man, it doesn’t mean we suddenly have to contend with “male PND.” It means we should be understanding, accepting, and supportive of fathers, a group who is largely forgotten after the birth of a child and is simply assumed to carry on as if his life has not changed.

Bravo, Lauren!

For The Guardian to allow such an article to be posted is shameful, just as the article writer herself should be ashamed.  She is preventing progress in the public awareness and de-stigmatizing of mental health issues.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was a man-hater.  Her words describing her feelings are so vicious, so blatantly against men, you’d think she hated men.  Her dragging men through the mud for something that she is clearly biased about and attempting to influence the public to believe in–even though she so clearly and curiously indicates in the research statistics she quotes as evidence that there are indeed a significant percentage of men who get depressed in the first year after their babies are born–isn’t right.  Not right at all.  The Guardian was foolish to have allowed this to get published at all.

Ms. Ellen just put herself in the shoes of the misinformed, judgmental, and downright mean and self-righteous commenters that I felt compelled to address nearly 2 years ago with this post titled “Fathers and Postpartum Depression.”  I’ve said it all before, and really don’t feel like saying it all again.  There’s not much more to add to what I said in that post.  Fathers can absolutely get postpartum depression too.  Semantics, schmemantics.

What do I mean in terms of semantics?  Let me explain with this excerpt from my book.  I don’t have a lot more to say at this point than this.

People are taking the term postpartum way too literally. Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after a baby is born. It can happen to adoptive parents. It can happen to fathers. Period. Perhaps if we just changed the name of the depression experienced by fathers, so we call it something else, there will be less misunderstanding by the society at large. It seems that, while people may generally agree that men can be depressed by certain biological, sociological, and environmental factors (e.g., sleep deprivation, anxiety, a spouse who has PPD, lack of support) after the birth of a baby, it seems the general population believes the term PPD is reserved for new moms only. After all, men don’t give birth and don’t even have the same hormones that fluctuate so wildly from start to finish.

Baby Fussy or Colicky? Try the Amazing 5 S’s!

One of the most exciting–and at the same time quite belated–discoveries of recent days–is the amazing effectiveness of Dr. Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s.  Had I known then what I know from his appearance at the recent Postpartum Support International (PSI) conference in Seattle last weekend, my daughter’s colic–to which I’ve referred as the straw that broke the camel’s back–may not have sent me spiraling quickly into a sudden, and quite unexpected, trip down PPD lane. 

 

Dr. Karp started his session with the PSI attendees with an introduction on how he began studying colic and newborn crying in the early 1980s.  He mentions that all infants are born with an “off” switch for crying, but as the brain develops, it becomes less of a reflex and more of a behavioral thing.

Here are the 5 S’s:

1 – swaddling (with 42″ blanket) – to simulate the in utero experience for the baby. Click here for my previous post on swaddling (which happens to be extremely popular).

2 – side/stomach – again, to simulate the in utero experience (baby’s do not lie flat in the womb, but that’s what we expect them to do in their cribs).

3 – shushing (or white noise CD) – again, to simulate the in utero experience (Dr. Karp explains that shushing and the white noise CD generates sounds of a certain frequency, which reminds the baby of the sounds he/she used to hear while in the womb.

4- swinging/swaying (or rocking or gently bouncing) – similar to the YouTube video below

5 – sucking – one of the only instincts the baby is born with, other than swallowing (to survive, one must eat) and breathing. You can have the baby suck on mom’s breast, a bottle, a finger or a pacifier.

In the videos I saw of the 5 S’s in action, the baby instantly stops crying by step 3 (shushing).  Some babies stop with the first S (maybe not necessarily if they are colicky), some stop by the 3rd S, some stop by the 4th S, and some need all 5 S’s.   Every baby is different.  I REALLY wish I had known about these steps.  I would’ve tried them.

See the amazing process in action being performed by parents on YouTube. See it to believe it!  It’s fascinating how the baby would be deliriously screaming like there’s no tomorrow to instantly (I kid you not) ceasing as soon as the 3rd step is carried out.  As soon as that baby hears the shushing, their eyes grow big and round and crying instantly stops.  Everytime I see that, I get the chills.

Before I saw the videos, I would’ve absolutely been skeptical. I have a copy of his Happiest Baby on the Block book.  But did I read it?  Yes.  Well, actually, I speed-skimmed my way through relevant points I was looking for.  But you can only get so much out of reading.  You really need to see it being done by someone else and doing it yourself…which is why Dr. Karp created a DVD.   He’s also developed a Happiest Baby educator program, in which his is used to teach others how to perform the 5 S’s, whether it be parents or infant educators to become certified to teach a Happiest Baby class.

I just can’t believe I didn’t know the 5 miraculous steps that can instantly elicit a newborn’s calming reflex. I believe that if all parents were to be trained this technique as part of every hospital’s childcare training,  we should see a decrease in the number of moms suffering from postpartum depression.  Heck, we may even see a decrease in divorces from stress suffered by parents…and on an even more somber note, a decrease in the number of babies shaken to death.

If you are a new parent and need help with soothing a baby that may or may not have colic, give the 5 S’s a try. Click here for a very informative article on Parentmap.com that I just stumbled across.  And click here to read my previous post on colic.  Click here for visit Dr. Karp’s website for more information.

Happiest Baby Tips That Can Help Curb Anxiety Levels in Parents

Wow, has it been nearly 20 days since my last post?!  Eeks.  Time is going by way TOO fast!   A belated Happy Summer greeting to you!  And boy, am I thrilled it’s summer! 

Well, here I am with a topic I’ve been wanting to post for the past couple of months.  What ultimately reminded me that I haven’t yet posted it was when I went to register for the Postpartum Support International conference today and saw that Dr. Harvey Karp, yes, THE Dr. Harvey Karp of “The Happiest Baby on the Block,” is going to speak at the conference on September 15th!   If you’re in the area then, be sure to sign up soon!
 
Two months ago today, I was contacted by Emily Weece of The Happiest Baby, Inc.  to share this information on my blog.  It’s important to remember that knowing how to cope with the curve balls nature throws our way– like colic and struggling with having to calm fussy babies– is key in lowering the risk of postpartum depression (PPD) in the new mom that is at risk for it.  See my past post for more on colic.

I’ve Been There, You Haven’t, So….

I’m not sure what possesses people to criticize others, especially if they don’t know the full story.   Speaking of stories, let me share a little story with you about a couple I know that just had a baby a few weeks ago. 

The new mom is on maternity leave for 3 months.  The dad took two weeks off to help the new mom.   This is to be expected, in my opinion, and should hands down be something management in a company should allow.  But then, he announces that, going forward, he would be working from home once a week, even after she goes back to work.   Nice!  Wish I could’ve arranged for either me or my husband to be able to work from home once a week like that after my maternity leave ended!  I’m thinking this is great for them….and at the same time hoping that all three of them are okay–mom, dad and baby.  Cuz you just never know.   Having been in a position where I nearly wasn’t able to return to work, having a tremendously difficult time with my postpartum depression (which no one but a handful of people at work knew about), I have learned that you can’t assume everything is fine and dandy or peachy keen for the brand new parents and the baby.  You don’t know if the mom is suffering from a postpartum mood disorder.  You don’t know if they have adequate help. You don’t know if they are having a difficult time transitioning to parenthood. You don’t know if there were childbirth complications.  You don’t know if there are health issues with the new mom and/or the new baby.  You just don’t know, do you?  Unless, if course, you find out what is truly going on, directly from the new mom and dad. 

Well, as soon as he announced that he would be working from home once a week going forward, the negative comments started.  Granted, I left out a minor detail earlier in that these two individuals happen to work at the same company.  Well, regardless of whether these people work for the same manager, different manager, same company or different company, if they were able to secure an arrangement–whether it be short-term leave, long-term leave, flextime, working from home once a week– with their management and HR, then what’s the deal with all the complaining?  First of all, who would complain and why would they complain?  Let’s see…..the ones who were complaining don’t 1) know the extenuating circumstances of the new parents, and 2) have never been parents themselves.    Two VERY GOOD reasons not to pass any judgement, if you ask me.  In response to the criticisms I overheard, I pointed out that there may be issues that we don’t know about…after all, I had issues no one knew about and I nearly couldn’t return to work due to my postpartum depression.   In the face of such a narrow-minded perspective of these individuals, I felt compelled to say something, and so I did.  It didn’t end there.  The response I got was “It doesn’t matter.  They could’ve worked something out that didn’t involve his having to work from home once a week.”   Well, again, we don’t know what their situation is, do we?   So I responded “Well, they may not have any relatives that can help, and hiring help isn’t cheap.  What else would you propose?”  That was the end of that conversation. 

People with no experience at being parents should be the last ones to make any negative comments, criticize, or pass judgment about parents, especially brand new parents.  Just like people who’ve never been depressed before should be the last ones to make any negative comments, criticize, or pass judgment about those who’ve experienced it firsthand.

How hard would it be, I wonder, if people were to open up their minds and try to imagine themselves in the other person’s shoes.  It’s called empathy, and I do it regularly.  What about you?   Is it too much to ask for a greater capacity to understand, and to rein back the impulse to shoot someone else down verbally?  Seems to me that all too many people–from my own experiences throughout life–are more willing to do the latter.  Why is that?   Forget about overhauling the healthcare system.  We need to overhaul people’s attitudes.  As I’ve mentioned before, it all starts with parenting and leading and teaching our kids by example.  Teachers also play a role.  Speaking of teachers, all schools should be required to teach empathy in one way or another, through the activities kids are involved in.  I’m proud to say that our school system does, and very happy that our daughter will derive that benefit!

American Academy of Pediatrics on the Importance of Screening New Moms for PPD

According to the latest American Academy of Pediatrics report published on November 1st in the journal, Pediatrics, with the over 400,000 infants born to moms with depression each year, perinatal (both antenatal and postpartum) depression is “the most underdiagnosed obstetric complication in America [which untreated and improperly treated] leads to increased costs of medical care,….child abuse and neglect,….family dysfunction and [adverse] affects [on] early brain development.” [1]

As I have said in prior posts, depression in new moms impacts the entire family.  Not only do fathers have an increased risk for developing depression themselves, but babies are at increased risk for insecure attachment, which can lead to developmental (cognitive) delays and behavioral (social, emotional) problems as they grow older.  Children exposed to maternal and/or paternal depression are at much greater risk of developing mood disorders, such as depression.  Hence, to ensure the health and wellbeing of the baby, it is important to ensure the health and wellbeing of the baby’s mother, which is why pediatricians are in a good position to screen new moms for postpartum depression (PPD), as well as help provide referrals for treatment and community resources/support services.

Between the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommending similar screening earlier this year and now the AAP, I truly hope that this will mean more new moms with perinatal depression being properly diagnosed and treated!  According to this report, although most pediatricians agree that screening for perinatal depression is something that should be included in well-child visits during baby’s first year, they also felt that they didn’t have adequate training to diagnose and treat PPD.  The report also states that the “perceived barriers to implementation [include] lack of time, incomplete training to diagnose/counsel, lack of adequate mental health referral sources, fear that screening means ownership of the problem, and lack of reimbursement.”[2]

There are indications, based on the report, that there have been efforts to move toward inclusion of women’s perinatal health in pediatric practices as demonstrated by programs like the one set up between Dartmouth Medical School and 6 pediatric practices in New Hampshire and Vermont, which show that pediatricians have the ability to effectively screen for PPD.  There is also the ABCD (Assuring Better Child Health and Development) Project, which is comprised of 28 states and their AAP chapters.  It’s wonderful that in Illinois, one of the ABCD states and one of the only states with a postpartum depression law, pediatricians who use the Edinburgh Postpartum Depression Scale to screen new moms for PMDs are actually paid (yes, paid!) by Medicaid for doing so.   Once again, Illinois is setting a positive example for the rest of the country when it comes to looking after new mothers and babies.  For more information on the initiatives going on in the various ABCD states, visit www.abcdresources.org and www.nashp.org.

What we need to do is mandate pediatrician (and OB/GYN) training to recognize PPD symptoms and provide proper referrals to medical/mental health practitioners trained in treating PPD.  The ideal goal would be the establishment of a multi-disciplinary approach (like I mentioned in my last post) wherein doctors–be it OB/GYNs whose patients are the new mom or pediatricians whose patients are the babies of the new mom suffering with PPD—would collaborate with each other and mental health providers in their communities to ensure new moms suffering from a PMD does not fall through the cracks.

I’d like to end this post by pointing out the difference between the AAP’s view of PPD timeframes of occurrence and peak prevalence versus the proposed guidelines I wrote about in my last post with respect to the DSM-5.   The AAP indicates that the peak for a PMD is 6 weeks postpartum, with another peak occurring 6 months postpartum.  It goes on to state in the report:  “Given the peak times for postpartum depression specifically, the Edinburgh scale would be appropriately integrated at the 1-, 2-, 4-, and 6-month visits.” [3]  Hey, American Psychiatric Association, the AAP gets it more than you do!  Please get with the program!

In Conclusion:

From the mere fact that it’s the primary care pediatrician that sees the new mother and her interactions with her baby within the first six weeks (before the postnatal follow-up visit with her OB/GYN at 6 weeks), the pediatrician is in the best position to detect maternal depression early and help prevent adverse outcomes for the baby and the family. “In addition, it is the [pediatrician] who has continuity with the infant and family, and by the nature of this relationship, the [pediatrician] practices with a family perspective [since a healthy functioning family means the healthy development of the child].”[4]  Screening can [and should be] be integrated into the well-child care schedule, as it “has proven successful in practice in several initiatives and locations and is a best practice for [pediatricians] caring for infants and their families.”[5]  The report further clarifies that, since the infant is the pediatrician’s patient, just because the pediatrician screens for PPD does not mean that the pediatrician must treat the mother. It just means that if a PMD is detected during the screening process, the pediatrician would provide information for family support and referrals for therapy and/or medical treatment, as needed.


[1] Earls, Marian F. and The Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family. Incorporating Recognition and Management of Perinatal and Postpartum. Pediatrics 2010;126;1032-1039; p. 1032.

[2] Ibid., p. 1034.

[3] Ibid., p. 1035.

[4] Ibid., p. 1035.

[5] Ibid., p. 1037.