Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Couvade Syndrome

For all expecting dads, you don't have the joy of being kicked in the rib at 2 o'clock in the morning, or throwing up at the sight and smell of chicken, or gaining 30 pounds overnight; however, men do go through changes during the pregnancy whether realized or not.  There is something I am sure you have heard called “sympathy pains” that dads-to-be experience.  You are probably saying "yea, yea, yea, he just wants attention" but this is a real thing.  It is often referred to as Couvade Syndrome, which simply means a sympathetic pregnancy.  

Some of the these sympathy pains dads experience are: anxiety, nausea, mood swings, weight gain, toothaches, backaches, headaches, and leg cramps.  I am going to dicuss some of the pains brought on by Couvade Syndrome that will make it seem like your partner is the one carrying the baby!
Weight Gain.  Pregnancy weight gain is normal and healthy for mommas, I bet you didn't know you would experience it too.  I am sure your partner may be experiencing those pregnancy cravings...so naturally you have to eat along side her during those midnight snacks; however, there is a bigger reason for the weight gain you daddies may be experiencing.  Men become very stressed when expecting a baby, whether conscious or subconscious.  Your life is about to change completely and unfortunately men were not blessed with the gift of being able to feel that change physically.  Due to the high stress levels happening to your body, a hormone called cortisol is released.  Cortisol is the “stress hormone”.  It is a tricky little devil because it is what regulates insulin and blood sugar levels in your body.  It is the deviant that causes the weight gain you might be experiencing.  Cortisol increases your appetite and sugar cravings, thus, cause you weight gain.  It binds to receptors in the brain (hypothalamus) and causes you to eat food in high fat and sugar content leading you directly to a bigger size pant.  Know that if this is something you are experiencing, you are not alone.  To counter this, exercise in is the best medicine.  Release those endorphins, reducing your stress, bringing you back to your normal pant size.

Mood Swings. If you are feeling extra moody this can also be from the weight gain.  When you gain weight, your body creates more fat tissue, leading your testosterone to become estrogen.  This is the culprit behind and mood swings and nausea you may be having.  Isn’t pregnancy great?

Cramps and Aches.  In a need for daddy to bond with the baby during pregnancy, his mental makes his physical match what momma might be experiencing.  In some cases, daddy wants that same connection and there is a hint of jealousy so the body actually will be deceived into feeling pregnant.  This is not the case for all and it is very subconcious, but it does happen.  As with anything, when you harbor anxiety and stress, it will manifest itself in a physical way.  This is an exaggeration of that.  This does, in some way, allow you to connect with the baby before he or she is born.

For all those aches and pains you may be having during the pregnancy, be comforted to know that according to studies, they are most likely in your head.  Because of the feelings your partner is having, you physically want to feel this too.  The mind is a very fun thing and can actually trick you into having similar pains as described by your partner.  For women during pregnancy, let’s face it...we are not the most sympathetic to whatever aches and pains your man may think he’s having.  To add to that, men don’t feel needed during the pregnancy...”woe is me”...so you may be finding yourself in competition (subconsciously) with your partner.

There are some things you can do to ease the symptoms you may be experiencing.  It will also be helpful to do these things with your partner which will keep her going as well.

  • Exercise. As I said before, exercise is the best thing to get your spirits up.  It would be really nice if you and your partner could come up with a workout plan together, even if it is just taking a simple walk together, it will make a huge difference.
  • Healthy Diet.  Eating right will help with the weight gain and keep it to a minimum.  It will also help your mood.  Exercise and diet are the two main factors in lifting your spirits and easing depression and anxiety.
  • Communicate.  Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial in any relationship, pregnant or not.  If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed talk to your partner about it.  Though us women can be unapproachable at time while pregnant, be sure to express how you are feeling.  I must warn you though, never start with “I don’t feel well” or “My *insert body part here* hurts!” Because you will get your head ripped off.  On that note, it is crucial you tell your partner about the fears and anxiety you may be feeling throughout the pregnancy.  It is totally normal to feel this way! Put the baby clothes, nursery paint chips and infant gear aside and go have a date night.  Do your best to make it about each other.
  • Date Night.  This is so important for a few reasons, it will help you communicate with your partner and it will also make things about you as a couple instead of your pregnant partner.

Totally unrelated but thank you so much everyone who voted for my baby boy to be on the cover of a magazine!  He is high in the ratings so let's keep going!! Any vote will help!  You can vote once a day! We are so close! Thank y'all so much for the love and support! Just follow the link to vote!


Monday, May 26, 2014

Vote For Baby Bradley!

Hey everyone! Bradley is in the running and I would appreciate so much if you would vote for him!
Just click here and vote!

Thank y'all so much for your support!!

Paternal Postnatal Depression

I have discussed with y’all Postpartum Depression and how pregnant moms can experience this or other postpartum disorders; but, what about dad?  Since the baby’s father was not physically pregnant, can he experience Postpartum Depression?
The answer is yes!  Just as you, your partner can experience the baby blues, Postpartum Depression, and other postpartum disorders.  This is called Paternal Postnatal Depression.

What is Paternal Postnatal Depression?
Paternal Postnatal Depression is a severe depression in the weeks after bringing your new baby home from the hospital.  We often forget about daddy because physically there really is not change.  Dads are not physically pregnant and we do forget that there are hormonal changes happening for the men as well as us.  Along with any hormonal changes, some dads struggle with the reality of parenthood just as we might.  Let’s face it...as wonderful and joyous as being a parent is...it is incredibly scary.  For some men, these fears and responsibilities can be too overwhelming.

What are the signs and symptoms of Paternal Postnatal Depression?
The signs and symptoms of Paternal Postnatal Depression may vary man to man.  The signs and symptoms look different for that of Postpartum Depression.  You definitely may see some similar symptoms but there are a few differences.

You may see your partner struggle with:

  • Irritability
  • Isolation and withdrawal from relationships
  • Working more or less as means to distract
  • Low Energy
  • Fatigue
  • Low motivation
  • Unable to focus
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Substance abuse (alcohol, pills...etc)
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Stomach (G.I) issues
  • Anger outbursts
  • Violent Behavior
  • Suicidal Thoughts

What causes Paternal Postnatal Depression?
There are a number of reasons your partner may be experiencing Paternal Postnatal Depression.

Sleep deprivation -- As any new parents knows, when you bring that baby home, even with an amazing baby who sleeps through the night, you no longer will.  Sleep has now become a privilege for you.  It is seriously underestimated how sleep can effect and exacerbate the symptoms of anxiety or depression.

Adjustment to Parenthood --As I said before, most amazing, incredible, yet terrifying thing in your life, and your life will be changed forever.  Being a parent takes so much compromise and adjustment for you and your partner.  It can be overwhelming, which is totally normal.

Family History of Depression -- As with any medical issue, with a personal or family history, you are already at higher risk.

Hormones -- There have been studies that have shown, just because daddy isn’t physically pregnant, does not mean his internal is not going through changes.  These studies have shown that dad’s hormone levels change just as mom’s do.  Testosterone decreases and estrogen increases.  Lower testosterone in men is associated with depression.  

A Depressed Momma -- If your partner is depressed and you feel helpless it can often bring you down in the dumps as well.

Relationship Stress -- Let’s not sugar coat...relationships are hard! When you add in factors like...a baby, where you are not sleeping, now you are forced to make these decisions together that you never had to before, yes it make it even more difficult.  Having a baby does put stress on a relationship because now you have added in so many factors to your relationship that were not there before; finances are now increased, sleep is now decreased, communication will be more difficult because you will be so busy, these factors all can add stress to a relationship.

Not feeling included with your baby and/or partner -- Your partner wants to be included in all the experience; however, because they did not undergo the physical as you did, it can make your partner feel like an outsider.  Moms don’t always realize that they are excluding their partner from being a part of their baby.  I am guilty of this myself.  I used to think I was just helping my husband by doing everything because he worked and I didn’t want him to feel like he worked all day, then came home and worked more.  This was a big mistake and I am glad we dealt with it early on.  Taking care of your baby is not work for your partner.  Let him in on things, changing diapers, feeding, all the fun things that go by all too quick.

There are so many other factors that take part in Paternal Postnatal Depression.  If your family is under financial stress or your family has recently dealt with a loss or disaster, this can also lead to exacerbating the depression.

How is Paternal Postnatal Depression dealt with?
As we all know...admitting things can be difficult for men.  It is hard for anyone to face that there may be an issue.  The reality is, it is sometimes hard for a person to see for themselves that there is an issue.  Paternal Postpartum Depression is not as known about.  It is more common than you may think, but there is not much discussion out there on the subject.  There are a few things you can do to help in dealing with Paternal Postnatal Depression.

Come to terms with the issue.  As I said before, in general people don’t always recognize there is a problem, it may take an outsider to notice.  Once you and your partner are on the same page about the issue, you can move forward in dealing with it.

Surround yourself with positive support.  Letting your family and friends know what is going on will be beneficial for you.

Sleep!  You will need sleep in order to function and communicate properly with your partner.  You and your partner should work out some kind of schedule to be sure each of you get a nap in.

Communicate with your partner about being involved with the baby.  If your partner is breastfeeding, talk to her about expressing milk so you could feed the baby a bottle once a day.  Help with tubby time.  Get a routine with your baby.  Maybe at night you rock with the baby and read him or her a story.

Go on a date! You need alone time.  At first it will be difficult, but do your best to get yourselves out of the house together.  Even if you just take a quick walk, anything will help.  Try to talk about fun things that don’t pertain to baby, finances, or anything super stressful.  

Be patient with your relationship.  Sex is the most common downfall for couples post baby. Be patient and considerate of your partner.  It  will get better, but be patient and communicate about it.

Talk to your healthcare provider.  We are so lucky that there is so much help offered now.  There are so many options for you if you may be struggling.  It it also a good ideal to try out Couples Therapy, especially if both of you are depressed or you feel the depression is really weighing on the relationship.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Put Down The Beer & Pick Up The Bottle!

Hey y'all! As we are entering into the month of June, we are entering into Daddyhood.  With Father's Day coming up I have been really thinking about what to do for my husband for his first Father's Day!  Daddy doesn't need another tie.  I think my Dad definitely has enough ties and coffee cups at this point.  There are so many creative things you can do for your partner when you're expecting and as he enters into his first official Father's Day.

For Expecting & New Dads:

Finding a diaper bag that your partner won’t be embarrassed by is no easy feat.  Here are some great diaper bags that my husband and some of our fathering friends love.

I recently took the survival guide I made for my husband and turned it into a kindle book.  It is called, Put The Beer Down & Pick Up The Bottle, and can be found on amazon.com.  Survival guides, like this one, add an element of humor to what can be a stressful situation.  If your partner is into sports you can make a Playbook.  Whatever sport your partner chooses, whether soccer, football, basketball, or baseball you can create a playbook geared towards parenthood.  Wisdom for the expecting.

Creating a survival gift for an expecting parent is so fun.  You can through in any little inside jokes you may have while also getting things you will actually need for when the baby arrives.  I made my husband a survival kit for his birthday.  He loved it and we actually ended up using most of the stuff in it.

Making a gift basket is a super fun way to include things for the new baby and some personal things as well.  Along with the survival kit I made my husband for his birthday I made him a gift basket that had alcohol nips, funny onesies, scratch tickets, the playbook I made him, framed photos of us and the ultra sound.

If you know the gender of the baby and have decided on a name you could engrave something for your partner with your baby's initials.  Whatever they are interested in. You could also engrave a frame and put the baby's first ultrasound picture in it.  For my husband, I made him a personalized Iphone case for pre-birth, birth, and 3 months.  Having our baby boy’s 3D ultrasound or picture on his phone helps him while he is working all day missing us.

Gender Reveal-
If you want there to be a surprise element for your partner, one of you can find out the gender and plan a reveal for the other.  You can do this through framing a maternity photo in pink or blue, baking with pink or blue dye, or you can do a scavenger hunt and leave little clues and riddles. In my next post I will be talking about clever ways to do gender reveals!

Coupon Book-
Coupon books are always fun, thoughtful and inexpensive.  It is so important to let you partner feel loved through this process because they are put on the back burner.  Having a coupon book will allow you to have that time together in a fun way.  You can do just about anything whether you want it to be romantic, spicy, or just a movie night.

This is a little bit pricier, but getting a glider for your partner would be beneficial because that time when they spend in the rocker with the baby is so special.  In my own experience, the bond that my husband has while rocking the baby is like my breastfeeding.  He absolutely loves his time at the end of a long work day when he can just sit down and relax with our baby.

Some men out there do enjoy a bouquet of roses, but for those that don't there are other ways to give a bouquet.  You could do a bouquet of your partner's favorite alcohol nips and cigars, or candy and snacks or coffee doing the bouquet in a nice mug.  

If you have a sports fanatic on your hands...like I do, you can choose a theme depending on the time of year it is.  My husband loves the Baltimore Ravens.  When I made him his bouquet and gift basket I centered it around football and all the accessories were Baltimore Ravens.  I made him a basket filled with nips, cigars, scratch tickets, a bottle opener, the list goes on.  Along with this, I got him a Baltimore Ravens diaper bag, and they sell all teams, of all sports, stuffed with what a daddy might need for his little one!  I find this to be such a great idea for any expecting or new dad.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Postpartum Something

PostpartumAs I have discussed with y’all, there are some things you want to be on the look out for once you have delivered your baby.  When all the dust settles, the visiting decreases, the meals stop coming, and it is now just you, your partner, and your new baby, the baby blues may set in.  It does not happen to everyone, I am so thankful to have skipped over the baby blues, the postpartum depression and all the glory that comes with it.  I was recalling my first few weeks home with our new baby and thinking back about my experience.  Though I did not have postpartum depression, I had postpartum something...there are more things to be on the look out for than just postpartum depression.  Between the hormones, the lack of sleep, and the overall adjustment of life as you know it, it is perfectly natural to experience some form of emotional vulnerability.  For some women, a good nights rest, a hot shower, and a home cooked meal will do the trick; however, for some women, nothing helps.

When nothing is seeming to help, and you have symptoms of postpartum depression.  Click here to see more on postpartum depression.  If the symptoms are similar but not quite the same, it is possible you could be suffering from postpartum anxiety or postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder.

What is postpartum anxiety?
The definition for anxiety is feeling worried, nervous, or unsettled about something, an event or situation.  I have never had anxiety in my life. Ever. My mom and dad always say I cause anxiety, I don’t have it.  After having my son, I have had serious anxiety.  The stress of a new baby can bring on anxiety.  In my own life, my anxiety is postpartum situational anxiety brought on my dealing with family stress.  My husband and I were faced with many difficult challenges involving his family that has now caused me to have serious anxiety.  It stemmed from our son being born and the issues with them on top of our newborn was too much for me.  If you are having intense feelings of worry or panic about your baby or even in general after birth, it is very possible you could have postpartum anxiety disorder.  This anxiety will come up within the first 2 or 3 weeks of being home.  Some women have some symptoms that mimic postpartum depression, but not all.

Symptoms of this anxiety are:
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness
  • Agitation
  • Chest pains or discomfort
  • Feeling like you can not catch your breath
  • Dizziness
  • Tingling in hands or feet
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Sweating
  • Faintness
  • Hot or cold flashes
  • Fear of dying
If you are experiencing any of the above call your doctor or midwife immediately.  

What is postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Obsessive compulsive disorder is recurring fear that will lead you to do repetitive behavior, literally compulsions.  To an outsider the compulsion may seem incredibly extreme, but not necessarily to the person suffering.  Someone who suffers from OCD sees danger everywhere, leading them to extreme compulsive behavior to protect from whatever the danger is they feel could be harmful to them.  Postpartum OCD is opposite of postpartum depression.  Women who have postpartum OCD live in constant fear of something bad happening to their baby, far beyond the normal worries new mommies may have, contrary to a women with postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis.
If you find you are constantly thinking about violent thoughts happening to your baby, you may have postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. These thoughts will come up randomly in the first couple weeks after giving birth.

What causes these postpartum disorders?
There is no single thing that can be held accountable for any of the postpartum disorders I have mentioned.  It is truly a combination of hormonal, environmental, psychological, and genetics. 

What can I do to be less at risk?
Of course the number one thing you must do is call your doctor or midwife if you experience any symptoms that make you feel you may have any of the above.  That being said, there are definitely some things you can do to help your be less at risk with postpartum depression, anxiety, or OCD:

Take care of you. Try to get rest any time that you can and keep a good diet. 

Lower your expectations.  Don’t expect too much of yourself.  If you have clinical depression, anxiety, or OCD, it takes every ounce of your energy just too get up and showered everyday.  You should not expect anything of yourself and feel guilty because of how you are feeling.  Rather than have expectations of yourself, you should set goals for yourself and go a little bit at a time.

Ask for help
. Part of being a good momma is knowing when to ask for help.  Don't be proud or afraid of asking for help.  In order to get better, family support and help from friends is a huge part.

Talk it out.  Have someone who you can confide in and talk to them about how you are feeling.  Joining groups with postpartum depression, anxiety or OCD is a huge help.  Women don’t realize quite how many other women are experiencing the same feelings.

Get yourself outside. Get a stroller, put your baby in a stroller and get outside!  Fresh air is the best thing for you and your baby.  It is not good to be cooped up in the house, that will just fuel the fire.
How can I help my partner during her postpartum period?

The postpartum period is just as difficult for the daddy too. Simply be there for whatever she may need.  Do a bit of research to understand what she may be going through and try not to be judgmental.  Just remember that you can not fix this.  The only thing you can do is be supportive.  She will need to seek the proper help from her doctor or midwife.  If you notice some things are off about your partner but she is not seeing for herself and you think that may be signs and symptoms of postpartum depression, anxiety or OCD call her doctor or midwife and discuss what you should do.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Choosing Your Breast Pump

When I found out I was pregnant I remember telling my mom I was just going to pump because I was too nervous about breastfeeding and thought that was the best choice.  My mom told me that I would love breastfeeding once the baby was here and I would get over feeling uncomfortable and nervous. She was 100% right.  I pump and nurse my 6 month old, I am very lucky he takes both.  If you are anything like myself, you may not feel comfortable or don’t have the patience and that is totally OK.  We are so lucky now because there are so many different kinds of pumps to be sure that your baby can get your milk even if you don’t want to nurse.  I am literally more married to my breast pump than I am my husband right now.  My family is always joking about it because it feels like every time I see them I am pumping. My dad calls it the dairy farm.  Considering that you will be basically in a relationship with your pump if this is the route you chose, it is so important to get a good pump you are comfortable with and all the proper accessories.

Some advice I can give you is to absolutely take advantage of the few days post birth that you are in the hospital.  The nurses are there to help.  Do not be afraid to ask questions, talk to a lactation consultant, really utilize the time you have with the staff.  When I was in the hospital for the few days post birth, I had the most amazing nurse.  I told her my reservations about nursing and that I wanted to just pump.  She was so supportive and set me up with a pump ( I already had received one at my baby shower, but did not have it in the hospital).  She did encourage me to just try nursing because babies are better at getting the milk out of your breast.  I nursed and he latched wonderfully and I also pumped.  She waited with me while I pumped each breast for 20 minutes each and guided me through every step of the way.  If you are feeling nervous or uncomfortable, I urge you to take advantage of the nurses and lactation consultants.

There are 3 specific types of breast pumps you can choose from to use.

Hospital-grade Breast Pump
Hospital-grade breast pumps are the most powerful pumps.  These are the pumps typically used to establish your milk supply.  In some cases where mother and baby are separated because of complications hospital-grade breast pumps are used to be sure your baby will get your milk even though you can not nurse.  Hospital-grade pumps are also available to rent from stores and hospitals.  You will need to get all your own proper accessories for your pump if you do rent.

Electric Breast Pump 

Electric breast pumps are offered as a single-breast model or a double-breast model.  With a single-breast model you can only pump one breast at a time.  A double-breast pump allows you to pump both breasts at the same time and you can also pump one breast at a time if you need to.  
Electric breast pumps are a very efficient way to pump milk. The beauty of the electric pump is it mimics your baby’s natural sucking pattern. You should expect to pump for at least 15 minutes every time you pump, 30 minutes if you pump each breast separately, 15 minutes per breast. 
Most electric pumps come with the necessary accessories you will need for pumping effectively and feeding your baby.
Electric pumps can be expensive, but now, most insurance companies will help pay if not completely pay for your breast pump.  You should absolutely contact your health insurance and inquire about this before you buy a breast pump.
A note for all mommas, do not share your breast pump with anyone. Even if you’re friend is going to use their own accessories, I do not recommend it. Small drops of milk can get inside the pump and pass viruses and bacteria.

Manual Breast Pumps 

Manual breast pumps are exactly as it sounds, you manually have to pump your breasts by squeezing a hand pump.  A manual breast pump is great for on the go if you don’t want to bring your electric pump when you go out and you know you will need to pump.  They are much more discrete than the electric breast pumps.  I always keep my manual breast pump in the diaper bag just in case.  It is small and easy to use if my electric breast pump is unavailable.

There are so many accessories for your breast pump, but it is normally a one time expense.  Most breast pumps come with what you will need, but if you want to get back ups or your pump doesn’t include them, here is a list of all the accessories you will need for pumping.
Breastshield -- They are cups that fit over your nipples and areolas.  They are not one size fits all.  There are different sizes for the breast shields because women have different nipples.  They do sell different size shields and you want to make sure that the breast pump you choose allows for different sizes.  This is something you will want to discuss with the nurses and lactation consultants in the hospital.  You will want to try different sizes to be sure it is comfortable.  A girlfriend of mine used the wrong size and it was very painful and did not efficiently suck the milk.

Valves and Membranes -- These parts allow the milk to drip into the bottles with the proper suction.  They sell these online or in store.  I get mine on Amazon because I can get them in bulk and for cheap!  I have torn a few membranes so it is good to have these on backup.  They are sold either together or separate, whatever you choose.

Tubing -- The pump uses tubes to either suck or flow the milk through to the bottles.  It is always good to have spare tubing.  My cat decided he was going to play with the tubing and tore it.  I was not a happy camper, thank goodness I had backup!

Bottles and Adaptors -- Your pump should come with the bottles that fit your pump.  Some women use different bottles than the one which come with your pump.  In this case they do sell adapters online and in store.  I also got this on Amazon.  My son uses the Tommee Tippie bottles so I pump both into the bottles that came with the pump and if I know he will be eating within the hour I use the adapter and pump directly into the Tommee Tippie.

Electricity Source -- Some pumps come with the wall unit and a battery pack.  This is great for when you are on the, if you have the battery pack you just plug that directly in and you can pump anywhere, anytime.  My husband and I lost power about a month ago and I was in a panic because I didn’t have my pump! I remember it came with the battery pack and it saved me! We were without power for 5 days and thank goodness for the battery pack!  Also, consider getting a car adapter if you are one for travel.  Having this really benefits me for when my husband and I are on the road.

Insulated Cooler and Ice Packs -- Some pumps come with and insulated cooler which hold 4 bottles of milk and an ice pack which molds the form of the bottle.  It is small and very convenient for on-the-go!  If it does not come with one you can always get the separately and if you are like me and need more than one because you make an obscene amount of milk, you can always get backups.

Cleaning Products -- I am super compulsive about cleaning the breast pump.  For this I use either the bottle soap or special breast milk removal soap and then I use microwavable cleaning bags that steam the products to get all the bacteria off.  I also have wipes that are special for the pump for when we are out or in the car and I can not access a sink.  They have these in store and online and they are wonderful for cleaning the breast pump.

Storage Bags and Storage Bottles -- There are special storage bags and storage bottles for freezing milk.  Most brands have storage bags, some have the bottles.  Storage is great to have for when you produce more than your baby needs and it is good for up to a year. For the first 5 months of my son’s life I had 2 whole freezers filled with breast milk! 

You can also find nursing pads if you find you are leaking and lanolin if you are in pain.  I used lanolin for the first month or so until I was used to it.  The first month was a little painful for me but your nipples will get used to it.  They also have gel pads for added comfort if your breasts are in pain.