Archive by Author

Sheryl Sandberg: Why we have too few women leaders

12 May

This talk about women in the workforce is spot on!!

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Is TV Watching Bad for Babies’ Brains?

10 Dec

I admit, every once in a while I do try to use the TV as a babysitter. This rarely ever works though! Mr. H watches the intro to “Yo Gabba Gabba!” and then he’s done. In times of dire need (like a long road trip) I do find that the only thing he will really watch is videos with children’s music videos. His favorite one is “The Wheels on the Bus” by the Bacon Brothers. (Thanks Omi!)

A recent article in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine finds that babies exposed to TV at 6 months had lower scores in cognitive testing. As little as 30 min a day resulted in lower scores (gasp!) and watching for more hours resulted in proportionally lower scores. My first thought was that maybe these babies who watched a lot of TV also had other family issues, but the authors adjusted for these factors and found the same results in both low and high income populations. They claim that watching TV prevents these children from participating in other activities which strengthen their brains.

So my take home message: Turn off the TV and play with your baby! But everything in moderation, we can’t be Superwomen! I think that women like me who have their baby in daycare have it much easier…it is those women who are at home all day with their babies (and are trying to do other things also) have a much harder time avoiding the TV. More power to you!

D’Oh Moment #1: Sippy Cup Valves

6 Oct

I realized this weekend that you should take off those little valves on the sippy cups tops before you put them in the dishwasher. I am sure that you don’t need a Ph.D. to figure this one out, and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before. But obviously (or maybe not so obvious to me) milk gets trapped in the valve and over time can turn into mold. Dark black mold that probably gets mixed into the new milk that you put into the cup. What doesn’t kill your baby makes him stronger, right?

I was able to get everything clean using a good soak, a small brush, and the dishwasher. But for more stubborn stains I found this article with some good suggestions.

p.s. I almost don’t want to admit this on the same day…but I also found some mold on the INSIDE of the pacifier. Evidently moisture can get trapped in there, too. I was able to get some soapy water inside and swoosh it around to get it clean. But now when it comes out of the dishwasher I will be sure to get any trapped water out. I found a site discussing this very problem (that made me feel better) and the forum had some good suggestions using vinegar.

Time to Hire a Housekeeper?

4 Oct

Time to Hire a Housekeeper? – MySciNet – MySciNet, an Inclusive Science Careers Community.

I am really considering hiring a housekeeper…and this article suggests that outsourcing can even help your career. Yet another reason to make the plunge! Many times my weekends are completely consumed by chores, leaving me no time for decompression before the work week starts again. I am just not sure about the financial part…I don’t really know how much housekeepers cost and if it is worth it (monetarily). How many people out there have maids? It is worth the money? Can anyone share the frequency of service and how much they pay?

Skin Deep

2 Oct

I always wanted to really detox my body before I had a child. Lose weight, get really fit, eat well, maybe do one of those detox diets where all you can eat is lemon juice and tabasco. Well…that didn’t really happen. But after I became pregnant, I did think about everything I ate and whether I wanted my baby to eat that too. But in addition to the food that you put in your mouth, the products that you put on your hair and your skin are also readily absorbed into your bloodstream. I mean, think about the nicotine patch or birth control patch, these drugs only work because they are absorbed through the skin. So would you eat your facial moisturizer? Or even worse, do you want your baby to eat your shampoo? Turn that bottle over and take a look at the ingredients…

Parabens (and all longer words ending in -paraben) are commonly used preservatives with estrogen-like properties that can influence sex differentiation in fish, causing more to be females (Mikula et al., 2009)! Sounds fishy, right? And like estrogen, parabens also increase the growth of breast cancer cells (Pugazhendhi et al., 2007).

Phthalates are used in cosmetics as a solvent and are also used to make plastics (weird!). Well these nasty chemicals have also been shown to mess with sex hormones and are considered a “testicular toxin”. One study actually showed  that levels of phthalates in the mother’s breast milk were correlated with levels of circulating hormones in 3 month old baby boys (Main et al., 2006).

Sodium Laureth Sulfate is one that I am familiar with because it is frequently used in the lab…but we make sure to wear gloves! This foaming agent and detergent is a serious skin irritant, and one study shows that young skin is the most sensitive to this chemical (Cua et al., 2006).

The list of other chemicals in beauty products that pose a threat goes on and on…fragrances, triclosan, EDTA, mineral oil, petroleum byproducts, mercury, lead, sunscreens…but to make things much easier a group called the Environmental Working Group has started a site called Cosmetics Database where you can search for the name of the product in question and decide whether it can stay in the medicine cabinet or is destined for the recycling bin. This site is not foolproof though, because one of my favorite new brands that is reasonably priced and free of almost all the bad stuff is Yes to Carrots, and they are not listed in the database (yet). So you also have to learn to just look out for some of these chemicals when shopping on the fly!

Although this video is a little long, I found it very informative and explains why the cosmetics industry has let things get so dirty. But as I approach the end of this post, I want to say that you can’t make yourself crazy about these things. We could nitpick every little bit of food we eat and cosmetics we use and make our lives a living hell. Look, you probably aren’t going to be eating organic vegetables when you go to a restaurant and sometimes you are going to inhale some chemicals that aren’t good for you. But it’s all about moderation, and doing what you can do to make the world a safer place for your baby. Now, go forth and clean out your bathrooms!

Strawberry Hemangioma

20 Aug

5 months

I had no idea what a strawberry hemangioma was until I had Mr. H. But evidently about 1 in 10 children have this type of birthmark, which is simply an overgrowth of blood vessels. Most of the time strawberries are located on the head and neck area, but they can occur anywhere. Interestingly, these marks are not seen right at birth but start to appear after about 1 month of age. They usually continue to grow for about a year and then recede and are completely gone before the beginning of kindergarten. Of course, this is not an exact science and there are all kinds of variations on this timeline.

7 months

Mr. H had a mark on his upper lip that started to appear when he was about a month old. At first I thought maybe it was a “hiccy” from sucking too hard while eating, but my pediatrician diagnosed it as a strawberry. She also referred me to a pediatric plastic surgeon since the strawberry was on his lip and if it got too big could interfere with nursing, eating, or speaking. It was very hard as a new mother to realize that my baby had an “imperfection”! It was especially difficult when I introduced my baby to new people…I felt as though everyone was wondering what this thing on his lip was and so I needed to explain it.

At the hospital for a treatment

A new procedure which is now used to stunt the growth of strawberries is called “Pulsed Dye Laser” or PDL. This is the same laser used in cosmetic procedures to reduce the appearance of spider veins. Mr. H had his first PDL at 3 months of age, and since then has had about 6 more treatments. The actual treatment only takes about 1 minute, but he has to go under general anesthesia for the treatment so that he will not move. This is very hard for a mother to endure! But I hope that in the end it will encourage the strawberry to heal more quickly and leave a less prominent mark on him permanently. The surgeon told me that we may need to continue giving Mr. H more treatments if it continues to grow…and there is also a possibility that he will have to excise some extra skin after the strawberry shrinks. But right now it is a wait-and-see situation.

First birthday!

Mr. H recently turned 1, and I feel that the treatments and/or the time has led to an improvement in his strawberry. It also took me about this long to realize that other people can see him without being distracted by this superficial mark. So for now I will stop worrying about it. But come kindergarten, I am sure I will be worried again because children can be so unkind!

For more information on hemangiomas and their treatment, here is a great resource: www.hemangiomatreatment.org

Thank you, Dr. Ferber!

26 Mar

Let me preface this post by saying that as I am sure many of you are, I was very skeptical and wary of all of these “sleep training” programs out there. I had actually read and tried “The Baby Whisperer” techniques when Mr.H was a few weeks old, and while I found many of these techniques to eventually be useful, after about 3 days on this program I was ready to literally throw the book out of the window. In hindsight, I think that Mr.H was just not ready to be sleep trained yet. Subsequently, I read “Happiest Baby on the Block” which I think it THE essential book for newborns. But about a month ago as Mr.H neared 7 mos. I realized his sleep habits were not improving but in fact getting worse. He backpedaled from no night feedings to now one or even two night feedings. And with the hubby now “officially” off night-duty because of a broken wrist (more on that later), I was finally ready for something drastic.

I asked my pediatrician if she recommended any sleep training books, and to my horror she suggested “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” by Dr. Richard Ferber. Ferber <gasp>!?! The man so horrible they even made a verb out of his name? I had read Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” and had somewhat identified with attachment parenting, and I had also heard the horrible stories about people letting their babies “cry it out”. But since I love my pediatrician and completely trust her opinion, I searched online for some book reviews. To my surprise, there were many reviews emphasizing that the whole “Ferberizing” paranoia was way out of hand and that Dr. Ferber’s method was really not so horrible. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to just buy the book and see for myself.

Upon opening the book, I immediately felt more comfortable with the author. He is an MD and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston. As a scientist in an academic environment, I feel I have something in common with him and respect his expertise (although I will admit that I skimmed over the sleep physiology mumbo-jumbo and went straight for the info on implementation). I could see this going either way…either it was going to work or make my life a living hell. I just had to give it as shot because things were spiraling downward…

Night 1. Mr.H had a great day at daycare with one 2h nap from 10:30-12:30 and a 30 min nap from 3-3:30. This is exactly in line with the optimal napping for his age. I could tell he was exhausted that evening, and after the nighttime bath he could hardly stay awake for a bottle. I tried to rouse him before putting him in the crib but he was out at 7:30pm. Which is WAY earlier than his normal bedtime of about 9pm. No peeps until 1:15 am and despite my reassurances at 5>10>12 min intervals, he pretty much cried for an hour straight. Back up at 3:15 to repeat this whole routine. Then again at 6:10 which I figure is pretty much time to get up for the day.

Night 2. Mr.H goes to bed at 7:30 and wakes for such a short 5 min period at about 2:30am, then again for about 30min at 4am. Is this getting any better? I think so. I figure I have to give it at least a week…

Night 3. Has an early wakeup from about 10-10:30pm, then again from 5-5:30. But wow – that was a long 7 h stretch for Mr.H.

Night 4. Again with the 10-10:30 wakeup, then a horrific 1.5 hr trouble period around 3am. Am I doing the right thing? I check in on him every 15min, pat-pat, shush-shush, and eventually I give in a rock him for a little bit, although that doesn’t really help much…

Night 5. 7pm-3am (WOW!) but it takes him about 45min to fall back asleep…

Night 6. 7:30-7:30!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will say there were two times when I heard little peeps (around 1:30 and 6am) but it wasn’t really a cry and I didn’t have to go into his room to help him fall back to sleep. I’M A BELIEVER!!!!!

I stopped keeping track after this because there was nothing to record! Mr.H now sleeps from 7:30-7am every day. A couple of times I have had to comfort him, but I can’t count on one hand the times this has happened in the last month. This is a DRAMATIC difference from the sleep interruptions we had prior to this sleep training.

Even more importantly, Mr.H is now a MUCH happier baby! I realize now that he was not getting enough sleep each day. In general he does not sleep well at daycare, so he really needs this long stretch of sleep at night to get ready for a new day. His crankiness is now replaced with laughing and nonstop activity – who could ask for anything more???