Book Review: Baby Bargains

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Author Qualifications:
Denise & Alan Fields are writers that collected parent reviews of baby related products for Baby Bargains.

Stand Out Nuggets:
This book is a great guide to baby products that lays out the best options for your individual lifestyle and budget, so you can personalize each purchase. I used this book to make decisions on my stroller, car seat, carrier, baby monitor and to get ideas about baby furniture.
There are also "nuggets" of information in this book that I had never known before. For example, did you know that Walkers are so dangerous (not to mention bad for development) that they are actually banned in Canada?! Reading that totally surprised me, but I was happy to find another place to save money!
Another great tip from the book is to join Amazon Mom - it's basically Amazon Prime tailored for moms, and it's been essential for me!! Baby Bargains also has lots of tips of products to avoid, ways to save money, and reminders of things you might not otherwise consider (like baby proofing items) spread throughout the book. 

What I Think:
This book is great! I found that researching & buying baby products can be so overwhelming and this book helped give a general picture of what products would work for me. Don't get me wrong, I definitely needed Amazon reviews, too. However, I found going straight to Amazon to be too exhausting in the beginning of my research. It was great to have side by side comparisons of products for items like infant car sets and strollers, and explanations of what companies have done to improve their products since the last Baby Bargains book review.
My only hesitation in giving this book a perfect review is that there isn't much on non-toxic products - not just house cleaning products but things like lotions, soaps & shampoos. For non-toxic research, I generally refer to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database, which rates individual products' toxicity levels. You can easily to Google "EWG Burt's Bees Baby Lotion" and find a direct link, or go straight to their website and search all "baby lotions."

The Takeaway:
I would definitely recommend this book - even if you have a lot of pregnant or mom friends who are dying to give you advice on the products they used, because your lifestyle and budget may be different from theirs. I was lucky to be able to borrow my sister-in-law's copy of Baby Bargains from 2011 (the newest is 2013), but the book is fairly inexpensive and may save you thousands in the long run. I can't imagine searching for baby products without this book, but I also combined my product research with Amazon reviews and ratings from EWG.

Did you find Baby Bargains helpful? Would you recommend it to a newly pregnant friend? What would you change or add to this book? 
I hope you're enjoying my parenting Book Review series! Please comment and let me know what you think! I love hearing from you! :)

xo kristen genevieve

Pregnancy Update: 33 Weeks!

Monday, February 24, 2014

This past week was fun! We had our last few days in Vermont this week to eat at our favorite local spots and enjoy the mountains. Early in the week, my sister-in-law and 22 month old niece came up to visit and we had a great time! We went to breakfast & then to the toy store - which is both fun and a little crazy with a toddler! She did very well putting toys away, she just loved to dart around the store - so overwhelmed by all the fun things! Adorable. :)

Now that we're back, I can't believe February is almost over! I am looking forward to the last few weeks of pregnancy (7 weeks to go!!) and my dreams are filled with tulips, lilacs, and warm weather. I just need to be outside more! I was able to get outside and walk a couple times this week, but it was still a little chilly. I've been picturing how fun it will be to take walks with my little one and not have to wear a coat, scarf & boots. Ahh...springtime! Come soon!

Because of our displacement, I've thankfully completed most of the major necessities on my "to do" list before baby arrives. One of final big "not fun" things on my to do list is to figure out about getting a voucher for a breast pump. I've read that if you contact your insurance company, you can get a free or partially covered breast pump in some cases if you purchase one from a specific medical supply company designated by your insurance. I think it's fairly recent that this has become a more widespread option, due to the Affordable Care Act. So definitely look into that if you plan on breastfeeding & pumping!

Week: 33 weeks - 7 weeks to go!!

Gender: Boy!!

Total Weight Gain:
Right around 20lbs! But my weight fluctuates throughout the week so sometimes its closer to 22lbs total. Ya never know what Monday will bring!

Exercise: More yoga - whats new? I am obsessed! Also trying to get outside and walk more when its nice out. Unfortunately this coming week is going to be cold. :(

Nutrition: This week I felt like I could not eat enough. I mostly snacked on bananas, apples with peanut butter, and low-sugar granola. But I was constantly hungry and rarely felt satisfied! Either baby is going through a growth spurt or I need more cheese back into my diet! ;)

Food cravings/aversions:
Still craving that spicy Thai food from my favorite local place!! I was able to eat it a few times while in Vermont, but now that we're back, I already miss it! Why?!

Signs of Stretch Marks: Nothing new since last week - somehow! Still using Burt's Bees Belly Butter! 

Maternity Clothes: As I mentioned last week, I did finally get a few new maternity shirts! I'm wearing one in today's photo. I probably should have a belly band by now, but it seems like it would be so uncomfortable! Next thing on the wish list is 1-2 cute yoga pants that I can wear once my little man arrives, too! 

Sleep: On and off. My heartburn has definitely been worse at night, making it difficult to sleep well some nights. Also, I'm still having vivid dreams, so sometimes I wake up feeling emotional from those dreams, whether they're good or bad. That's not strange, right? 

Feeling: A mix of everything! I felt great this week but I'm a little sad to leave Vermont. My body feels strong from yoga, which is always a good feeling. But I am sooo ready for springtime so I can get back into my evening walk! I need that mental boost! 
I haven't experienced any more Braxton Hicks in the past couple weeks. It makes me wonder if I was actually feeling them in the first place, because they were pretty mild. In your experience, were these contractions very random at this stage?

Baby Movement: Yes! His movements get so much stronger every week, but I don't mind. ;) Over the past few weeks, I've also noticed that he's settling into a definite wake-sleep pattern. 

Belly Button In or Out? In - I don't understand how!

Wedding Rings On or Off? On - I'm hoping it'll stay this way till the end!

What I miss most this week: Over the past week, I've missed having a kitchen again. Since we have returned, I miss Vermont! 

Best moment this week: When my sister-in-law & little niece came to visit! Toddlers are fun :)

Looking forward to: Getting through the next two weeks of displacement. I'm very much looking forward to being settled again! 

Thanks for reading! If you're interested, remember to check out my parenting book reviews on Thursdays! Until next week...

xo kristen genevieve

Book Review: The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Author Qualifications:
Doctor Harvey Karp is an American pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at USC School of Medicine. "He completed medical school training at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC, pediatric residency at Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles and fellowships in ambulatory pediatrics and child development at UCLA."

Stand Out Nuggets:
-The concept of the "Fourth Trimester." Dr. Karp argues that a newborn's brain and functions are so much less developed than a three month old and thus treating a baby differently for this short stage will help them transition from the womb to the world. In the womb, baby's are exposed to a constant, loud "shhhing" noise, continuous movement, and a warm, cozy you! Dr. Karp explains that entering the world is a stark contrast to that experience and sensitive babies may have a difficult time transitioning. According to Dr. Karp, there is no such thing as "spoiling" a baby in the first three months.

-Babies all over the world and throughout history have been carried around in a sling by their mothers. In some cultures, babies are given the breast within 10 seconds of the baby's cry, each time they cry. Dr. Karp acknowledges that this level of on-demand attention is unrealistic in our culture, but also reminds readers that babies are used to constant closeness because its what they experienced in the womb.

-Not every crying baby has colic. Colic usually starts at two weeks, peaks at six weeks, and ends by three to four months. Colic is not more common among preemies. Babies with colic appear to be in pain, and their screams often begin during or just after feeding, and are much worse in the evening. Colic crying "often improves with rocking, holding, shhhing and gentle abdominal pressure." These babies are fine between outbursts. A colicky baby is NOT the same as a baby who reflux, constipation, hunger, food allergies (or reactions to foods in your breast milk), or other more serious issues. (Information on pages 31-32.)

-The famous 5 "S" solutions to calm even a baby with colic: Swaddling (tightly, arms in), Side/Stomach laying (NOT in the crib!), Shhh sounds (white noise), Swinging (short & vigorous), and Sucking. Dr. Karp emphasizes that for babies with colic, all 5 "S"s must be done correctly & simultaneously in order to achieve success. Most babies can benefit from one or more of these techniques, but more sensitive babies need all five solutions to be soothed. The majority of the book describes & illustrates how to properly execute these techniques.

-Interesting tidbit: just as baby's eyes are adjusting in the first three months, baby's ears are also "waterlogged," so sounds are muffled, just as they were in the womb. So when baby is crying, "shhhing" must be done louder than baby's cry, which is measured to be louder than a vacuum! (p 141) (***UPDATE: In March 2014, a study was published saying that white noise machines at maximum volume were too loud for baby and may cause hearing damage over time. Be sure to consult your pediatrician about this issue in order to make the right decision for your family.)

-For chapter outlines and excerpts, visit this link on the Happiest Baby website

What I Think:
Let me just come out and say it: I was hesitant to agree with Dr. Karp initially. I do not plan to practice "attachment parenting" with my child (no judgement, its just not for me). From what I had heard, I felt like Dr. Karp's philosophy "gives in" to baby's demands and would therefore make it more difficult to sleep train later on. However, this book is specifically intended for the first three to four months of life (the "Fourth Trimester"), which he explains as being different because of the baby's developmental stage.  
The lay out of this book is easy to navigate, however, its pretty repetitive. I feel like Dr. Karp could have condensed this book and made it half the length. He went into depth to defend his arguments, which I liked, but he also repeated himself again and again, even when not presenting evidence, and it felt like too much "fluff" to me. If you already agree with the author and his Fourth Trimester theory, a summary would be just fine for you (like the one on pages 126-127). If you disagree with him or are on the fence, it would be more worth your time to read the entire book to understand why he believes what he does.
I am glad I read this book because it focuses on the first three months, when I know I'll be too exhausted to think! If my baby is crying or has colic, I'm glad to have some resources to calm my baby when I'm too tired to research new solutions. I am also planning to read & eventually review Dr. Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child which focuses specifically on sleep issues, segmented into baby's age (1-4months, 4-12months...).

The Takeaway:
I would recommend this book if your pediatrician suspects your baby to have colic. Otherwise, if you agree with the author and don't need convincing of this parenting theory, go to the library and skim the basics of how to do each technique. If you disagree with Dr. Karp, it still might be valuable to have a few tricks in your pocket in case you're exhausted & desperate. Keep in mind that, in general, babies need tighter wrapping, more vigorous jiggling or swinging, and louder "shhhing" than you might expect. Also, each technique takes practice and may not work perfectly the first few times. So hang in there!
With my baby, I will likely try these techniques when he's crying and I've tried feeding, burping, changing his diaper, and holding him and don't know what else to do. However, I won't rely on the three month mark to change things up and phase out of certain techniques, like swinging. I think it's important to pay attention to your baby and to work with your pediatrician to decide when the right time is to shift strategies based on your baby's individual development.

I hope you're still enjoying this Book Review series! Do you agree with Dr. Karp, that the first three months of life are different? Is it possible to spoil a newborn? Do you plan on sleep training your baby before or after three months? Please comment and let me know what you think!

xo kristen genevieve

Pregnancy Update: 32 Weeks!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Ahh, I love Vermont! I even forget that I feel like I'm almost waddling down the street when I see mountains in the distance, snow-dusted and piercing the bright blue sky. It's been a little chilly here (it is February, after all), but I'm feeling so warm and happy to be back where we call "home."  :)

The only difficult part about being here is that I don't have a kitchen! We've only been on the road for a week now but I already miss cooking! Good food is one of my favorite things in life. I love savoring a meal that I spent time to develop and create. As I suspected, it has definitely been more difficult eating fresh, healthy foods while living out of a hotel room. I enjoy eating at restaurants mostly for the experience, but when I'm cooking, I know exactly where my ingredients came from, and to me, it usually tastes great and makes me feel much better than when I eat out. I rarely eat meat because I try to focus my cooking around vegetables, but when I eat out, I'm always tempted for steak & potatoes or something heavy that ends up weighing me down. The food in restaurants here are generally very good quality with a big focus on local & organic ingredients (farm to table style), but I always eat too much!

As for baby research, I've started a new series on my blog that reviews pregnancy, parenting & childhood development books - so go check it out! When I peel my nose out of the books, I like to watch YouTube videos on parenting. While watching The Mom's View this week, I discovered Melissa, mother of five, from Cloud Mom. She has over 350 videos on her page, ranging from 2-5minutes. Melissa talks about almost everything you need to know when entering mommyhood, including how to change a diaper, how to get your baby to latch while breastfeeding, nursing and pumping supplies you'll need, and awkward post-delivery solutions to help mommy! It's a great resource (she definitely does her research) and I would definitely recommend checking out! Just make sure you check with your pediatrician to make sure what's right for you & your baby and to confirm that the standards you see/read from any source are current. 

Another video I watched this week was a documentary called "The Business of Being Born". The film discusses how natural childbirth has become rare in the US and why that is, and also explains the role and importance of midwives being involved in the process. I'd like to do a post about birthing soon, as I am in the process of writing my birth plan and deciding what type of birth is right for me. I want to be flexible without being submissive because very much want to avoid a Cesarean!!
Week: 32 weeks along! I told my husband that we had 8 weeks to go, and I think it hit him this weekend - woah!

Gender: Boy!!

Total Weight Gain:
Still sticking around 19lbs!

Exercise: Continuing yoga! I actually managed to keep up the routine from my hotel room! Because I'm going to be away from home for a few more weeks, its very important to me to remain strong so I can handle labor & delivery! It's my motivation.

Nutrition: This week has been simplified since I've been unable to cook. Lots of snacks in the form of bananas, organic apples, milk and organic (low sugar) peanut butter. One morning I opted for pancakes from room service instead of my usual yogurt and although they were delicious, I felt so sick afterwards! Too much sugar too early!

Food cravings/aversions:
Spicy Thai food!! The BEST thing about being back here, for sure. I co
uld eat it three times a week but I don't want to torture my husband! Also loving the chicken pesto sandwich (on a baguette!) from the local co-op. Yum!

Signs of Stretch Marks: No changes in the past few weeks. Still using Burt's Bees Belly Butter!

Maternity Clothes: I actually DO have an update here this week! I got a few cute tops (including the one I'm wearing in today's photo) from Motherhood Maternity! I felt less guilty buying short sleeved maternity shirts because I'm hoping they're be more versatile for my future pregnancies. ;)

Sleep: Even though the hotel bed is not that comfortable, I've actually been sleeping very well. I am SO glad I brought my pregnancy pillow though!

Feeling: Happy, strong and motivated. I don't know if its the fresh mountain air or all the research I've been doing on birthing this week, but I am feeling so excited not just to meet my little boy, but to experience labor. Is that weird? I never expected to feel this way!

Baby Movement: He only stops to sleep! I was jolted awake one morning this week by a hard kick in the rib! Ouch, baby! :)

Belly Button In or Out? In - barely!!

Wedding Rings On or Off? On

What I miss most this week: My kitchen. But being in Vermont is a pretty great trade off!

Best moment this week: Receiving the cutest poem from my sweetie this Valentine's Day! :) 

Looking forward to: Seeing my sister-in-law and little niece this week!  

Thanks for reading! I am so grateful for all the ladies that have been along this journey with me. I hope that my story is not only interesting but maybe even helpful! I certainly don't claim to know everything, but I love researching & sharing what I've discovered with all of you. I also really appreciate your comments! :)

xo kristen genevieve

Book Review: What to Expect When You're Expecting

Thursday, February 13, 2014

 What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff & Sharon Mazel
Author Qualifications:
Heidi Murkoff is a writer and mother, not a doctor. Sharon Mazel also appears to be an author without a medical background. Information on their credentials beyond "author" very difficult to find. Murkoff has been criticized for having no medical training.

What I Think:
Ahh, the classic pregnancy book. Because there is just so much information in this book, I'm not going to write a detailed summary the content of this one like I did for Brain Rules. Essentially, What to Expect describes each week of an average pregnancy and gives brief answers to pretty much every question you can think of about pregnancy. It's more of a reference book, not something you generally read cover-to-cover. The final chapters discuss the realities of labor & delivery, what to expect six weeks postpartum, your partner's role, being sick while pregnant and pregnancy complications & loss. 

If you are an emotional person that is susceptible to "freak outs" during pregnancy, this book is not for you. You can so easily read something, diagnosis yourself, and think that your world is crashing down. However, for me, it's been a great reference guide. I have anxiety in my daily life, but for some reason, I feel very confident about my ability to handle pregnancy, labor & parenting, so the information didn't scare me. I enjoyed not only the "textbook" style for referencing quick questions, and the week by week details of how my baby grows.

If you're just interested in the week by week changes, I would suggest skipping the book and going straight to the What to Expect website, as it has all the same information. Also, you can research specific questions and use the website as a resource rather than feeling bombarded by all the other information you aren't ready for. My sisters-in-law both preferred The Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy, which I will review later in this series.

One of the problems I had while reading this book is that it doesn't say much about having a healthy or organic/non-toxic pregnancy. While I understand that the non-toxic lifestyle isn't mainstream, I wish a little more attention was paid to controlling negative environmental factors. There is one small section that basically says, "avoid toxic products," but doesn't give concrete solutions or info on which toxins are particularly bad in pregnancy (with the exception of lead).

For example, the book claims that microwaves are completely safe during pregnancy (p 78). Now I'm not saying you can't use the microwave, but back up 6 feet! Don't expose yourself to that radiation when its so easily avoidable. The book also says to avoid dying your hair in the first trimester only (p 144), but it's not good for you at all during pregnancy! I understand that its difficult for women to totally give up getting their hair & nails done, and I don't think its the end of the world. Its just something I would not personally do, so I take this type of advice with a grain of salt and get my non-toxic solutions elsewhere.

The Takeaway:
This book is a textbook that covers almost everything you want to know about pregnancy except living a non-toxic lifestyle. Take every piece of information with a grain of salt and ask your doctor about questions you are concerned about, don't just rely on the text as it is simplified and one-sided. I would only recommend the book to those who aren't prone to "freak outs" and who like the reference-style writing. For everyone else, stick with the website! The week by week updates of how you and your baby change are fun!

What do you think of What to Expect? Did it freak you out? Do you prefer the book or the website? Would you recommend it to a friend? Hope you're enjoying my new Book Review series! I'm trying to be helpful and critical, not judgemental. You definitely don't have to agree with me and I would love to hear your take!

xo kristen genevieve

Pregnancy Update: 31 Weeks!

Monday, February 10, 2014

A day for silly faces!
This past week has been a little crazy around here! My husband was working until almost 10pm early in the week, and I think the stress of it gave me a horrible headache. It was one of those lights off, sounds off, can't-handle-the-world type of headaches. But the next day, it was as if the heavens knew that I needed him, and a blanket of snow fell on Boston and granted him a snow day! Since then, I've felt much better. I am such a baby when I feel sick!

Speaking of health, one thing I got off my "to do" list this week was getting my Tdap shot. It was very important for me & my husband to get vaccinated to protect our little boy from whooping cough. I've talked about getting the pertussis vaccine in a previous post, particularly on how to deal with family members getting vaccinated. I am happy to report that my mother-in-law did get vaccinated! As for me, all that's left over is a sore arm, but nothing to complain about. I just feel good that I made time to protect my baby - just the job of a mom!

On Sunday, we packed up & headed north to Vermont! As soon as we arrived, I was filled with happiness & good memories of the place we used to call home (and honestly, still do!). We've already eaten at a couple of our favorite restaurants. Ahh...I can't wait to move back! I'm looking forward to updating you in the coming weeks on my adventures here! 

Week: 31 weeks along! Nine weeks to go!!  

Gender: Boy!!

Total Weight Gain:
ust under 19lbs! And I definitely feel it! The weight is coming on so fast now!

Exercise: Continuing with my prenatal yoga just a couple times this week. I had to take a break from the 4-5 day routine again, this time due to headaches. :/

Nutrition: Not much is new this week - lots of spinach, tomato, & garlic based dishes for dinner. I am getting a little concerned about my nutrition for the coming weeks when we'll be on the road though! Definitely keeping my yogurt routine but the other meals will be tough.

Food cravings/aversions:
Everything! So hungry! Loving garlic in my dinner meals lately.

Signs of Stretch Marks: Still using Burt's Bees Belly Butter! No changes since last week.

Maternity Clothes: I'm planning on doing some shopping in Vermont this week. It's tough to find things I like, especially when its still cold here and it will be warming up at the end of my pregnancy. I still appreciate any advice from my mommy friends! 

Sleep: Waking up a couple times a night - every night now. I've also been having vivid dreams, including one where I went into labor this week. I was crying and saying "too early, too early!" :( I think it's because I was talking to my sister-in-law who went into labor with her first at 33 weeks due to pre-eclampsia.  

Feeling: As I mentioned above, I had a horrible headache this week. :/ I've also upped my iron because my blood results showed I was still a little low (despite taking an iron supplement already), and I've been feeling a little lightheaded and faint on & off over the past couple weeks. Nothing too bad, but enough to make me slow down. 
I also think I might have experienced my first Braxton Hicks contractions yesterday! It felt like very mild cramps. The first time, I thought it was just the way I was sitting, but when it happened again several hours later, I knew it had to be my body preparing for the big day!

Baby Movement: Yes! As I mentioned last week, I can feel him getting bigger because those movements are so pronounced on my belly! I love when he "shark fins" across!

Belly Button In or Out? In still. I really don't know how.

Wedding Rings On or Off? On

What I miss most this week: Eggs benedict ;)

Best moment this week: My husband's snow day! 

Looking forward to: Spending the next couple weeks in Vermont! My favorite place :)

Hope you are still enjoying my updates! I love having a log of each week, because so much changes in my life & with my body every post I write. Pregnancy is amazing. 
I've been trying to be better about my other posts as well, turning my reading obsession into a new mini series where I review baby brain development & parenting books! Let me know what you think and if you have any book recommendations for me! :)

xo kristen genevieve

Book Review: Brain Rules For Baby by John Medina

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hey all! So as most of you know, I have been neglecting my blog lately to get things done before my little man arrives. One of the things I've been doing is reading - a lot. So I wanted to share with you a few nuggets of information from some of the baby sleep & brain development books I've been reading. I know moms & moms-to-be are too busy to read every single book & website out there! 

Throughout my reviews, please remember: Some of it I don't agree with, some of it I do, some I only agree with to a certain extent. I'll explain what the author's perspective is and then make it clear when I'm telling you what I think about it. You don't have to agree with me or the author! I'm very accepting of other people's different beliefs. So please comment and tell me what you think! I think it's great for us to have a community discussion. Hope you enjoy this new series! 
Author Qualifications:
John Medina is a developmental molecular biologist with a "strong interest in the genetics of psychiatric disorders." He founded the Talaris Institute in Seattle, "whose original mission involved studying how infants process information at the molecular, cellular, and behavioral levels." (p 3) He is also the father of two boys. (Note: he is NOT a child psychologist or pediatrician.) 

Stand Out Nuggets:
-Keep it quiet in the first half of pregnancy, baby's brain does better with lack of stimulation. So turn down the noise! "No commercial product has ever been shown in a scientifically responsible manner to do anything to improve the brain performance of a developing fetus." (p24)
-Baby can hear mom's voice, and remembers. "During the final six weeks of pregnancy, women in a study were asked to read the Dr. Seuss book [The Cat in the Hat] out loud twice a day...When babies were born, they were given a pacifier hooked up to a machine that could measure the strength and frequency of their sucking...The babies then heard tapes of their mother reading The Cat in the Hat or a different story, or heard no story at all...The babies who had heard Dr. Seuss while in the womb appeared to recognize, and prefer, a tape of their mother reading The Cat in the Hat." (p33-34)
-Four things proven to help baby's brain in pregnancy: gain just the right weight; eat just the right foods (folic acid, omega-3s, balanced diet); avoid too much stress (chronic is bad, some mild stress is just fine); exercise just the right amount.

-Be good to your spouse because baby can feel your energy and seeks safety above all. Baby's brain is less able to develop appropriate stress-coping mechanisms when in an emotionally unstable home.
-Biggest mistake when parents fight: fighting in front of your child without resolving the conflict in front of them. Model how to fight fair and how to make up.
-Four biggest reasons you'll fight: sleep loss; social isolation; unequal workload; depression.

Seeds of Baby Brain Development:
-There are aspects of your child's intelligence about which you can do nothing; genetic contribution is about 50 percent. 
-Five Ingredients of Intelligence: the desire to explore; self-control; creativity; verbal communication; interpreting nonverbal communication.
-Executive function is a better predictor of academic success than IQ. 
-Torrance Test of Creative Thinking - the go-to standard for evaluating creativity in children.
-DVDs & tapes (ha!) don't work. Baby needs a real person to learn language!
-Learning Sign Language may boost cognition by 50 percent. Helps them learn nonverbal communication (body language). People with this skill make for successful entrepreneurs. 

Soil of Baby Brain Development:  
-Survival is the brain's priority. Create a safe environment so brain can thrive.
-Four Baby Brain Boosts: Breast feed for a year (breast milk contains turine & omega-3s, essential for neural development); Talk to your baby - a lot (don't assume they don't understand because they can't yet respond!) but don't overstimulate; Play! (more creative, better at language, better at problem solving, less stressed, better at memory, more socially skilled); Praise effort, not IQ (kids praised for IQ give up and choose easier problems to get rewards/approval, and feel worse when they fail.)
-"Parentese" is "high-pitched tone and a sing-song voice with stretch-out vowels...helps infants separate sounds into contrasting categories." (p 130)
-Mature Dramatic Play & the Tools of the Mind Program - Create a play plan, practice pretending, one big playroom (tons of settings & options)
-No TV before age 2! No creativity, no interaction, can lead to trouble focusing, frustration & hostility, and delays early language development. Jury is still out on iPads because they're so new.
-Under pressure: extreme expectations stunt higher-level thinking; pressure can extinguish curiosity; continual anger or disappointment becomes toxic stress.

Seeds of a Happy Baby:
-Best predictor of happiness is having friends.
-Children who learn to regulate their emotions have deeper friendships than those who don't.
-There may be a genetic component to how happy your baby can become.
-Some babies are high-reactive (sensitive) and it may just be genetic.

Soil of a Happy Baby:
-Babies need you to watch, listen, then respond. If baby turns his head or arches his back when you're shaking a toy in his face, he's probably overstimulated and needs a break! 
-The parenting style that creates the happiest kids (good emotional regulation, academic achievement, empathetic, obedient, less depressed/anxious, healthy, not violent, rich friendships) is one that is highly responsive to kids emotions while still demanding. (Opposite is Authoritarian, Indulgent, and Neglectful)
-Be comfortable enough to understand and communicate your own emotions - track your emotions; verbalize them; run toward them; have empathy!
-Don't judge; acknowledge the reflexive nature of emotions; recognize that behavior is a choice, emotion is not; see a crisis as a teachable moment.
-One study found that 10 years of music lessons, starting before age 7, were found to benefits kids' ability to read subtle variations in emotional cues much more quickly & accurately than those without musical training. (p 209)

Moral Baby:
-Babies have an innate sense of right & wrong.
-In the brain, regions that process emotions and regions that guide decision-making work together to mediate moral awareness. Lose emotions and you lose decision-making.
-Moral behavior develops over time and requires a particular kind of guidance. 
-How parents handle rules is key: realistic, clear expectations; consistent, swift consequences for rule violations; and praise for good behavior.
-Kids are most likely to internalize moral behavior if parents explain why a rule and its consequences exist. 
-Punishment limitations (p242): Punishment suppresses behavior but not the child's knowledge of how to misbehave. Punishment provides very little guidance on its own (need teachable moment). Punishment always arouses negative emotions and can produce resentment if administered incorrectly.
-"Three-year-olds spanked more than twice a month were 50 percent more likely to be aggressive by age 5." (p 248)

Visit the book's website, BrainRules, for more information.

What I Think:
As you can tell, I've complied a lengthy overview for this book (more than I will for future reviews) because I really enjoyed this book! It was such a fast read because the author is funny and relates real-life experiences to scientific studies. Though he is not a child psychologist, his unique perspective of the brain displayed how some things are not in our control (seeds/genetics) and others are (soil/parenting). The book is very well laid out (lots of bullet points & summaries), and there is a great section in the back that lays out more tips for new parents.   
Overall, this book reinforced many of my personal beliefs with scientific evidence. It fed my curiosity of child brain development in that way. Where I learned from this book was from the specific examples of how to foster an emotionally safe environment that promotes creativity, inspires learning, and nourishes your child's emotional health so they can be happy! 
One thing I wish the author would have elaborated on: how to deal with a "high-reactive" aka sensitive baby. I found more information & suggestions on that in The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, which focuses on the first 3-4 months of baby's life. (Which I will review later in this series!)
The place where I most find myself looking for parenting advice is effective & age appropriate punishment. This book is great because it gives real life examples of conflict and resolution. However, there is not much discussion about kids under age two. 
Essentially: learn how to read your child's emotions so they can learn best. Be perceptive and responsive to your child and have demanding (yet not unreasonable) expectations.

The Takeaway:
This books has a few nuggets of information that are good for pregnant women and new parents, but its mainly focused on kids as they grow. While the author does mention babies frequently (especially when it relates to stress and over-stimulation), the book is more focused on early childhood development after baby is +9 months. I chose to read this now because I expect that I won't have much time to be reading when my baby is 6 months!

I hope you all enjoyed this book review! The next few will not be as lengthy, but I was feeling inspired today. Let me know what you think. Do you agree with the author? Would you read this book? Is the sort of information interesting to you? Or are you more curious about the basics of how to handle a newborn? I love reading your comments!

xo kristen genevieve

Pregnancy Update: 30 Weeks!

Monday, February 3, 2014

We made it to 30 weeks!! Can you believe this pregnancy is 3/4 of the way done?! I can't. The end is near and I still have so much more to do! (I know all my preggo friends can relate!)

Glucose update: I passed! I was feeling a little unsure about my gestational diabetes test because I've known so many mamas (on & off the blogs) that have had to deal with borderline or full on GD. I had no idea what to expect, but my levels were way lower than I even anticipated. So grateful! I also wanted to say thank you for all the good luck & well wishes during this time, I really appreciate the support!!

Otherwise, to be honest, this week has been kind of a low week. I'm doing my best to choose happiness every day, but some days are easier than others! One year ago, I made a promise to myself to never stay down for too long, and especially to avoid falling into depression (been there, done that), but it's difficult to be in this transitional state. Ironically, I'm not at all afraid of labor or becoming a mom or breastfeeding. I'm a little down because my life feels so "up in the air," and I'm too much of a planner to deal with that! I like change, but I also like knowing where I'm stepping before that change occurs.

After our little one arrives, my husband (who has been working at a job that requires him to stay waaay too late at work) plans to apply to jobs back in Vermont. We're hoping to move back when our baby is just 6-8weeks old. But nothing is certain yet! And that's a little stressful for me, especially when I have no control over the situation at this moment and we have little time to talk it out because of his current work schedule. I know everything will work out in the end and I just have to push through and give my baby good, happy vibes. It just takes a little more effort than usual! It's that mid-winter struggle. Maybe I should just forget about my to-do list for a few hours each day and wrap myself in a good book. :)
Week: 30 weeks along! Ahh!! 10 weeks left!

Gender: Boy!!

Total Weight Gain:
Just a smidge under 15lbs total! Getting there!

Exercise: I've been getting back to being better about my yoga routine this week! Although I still have hip & rib pain regardless. I like to think that the yoga still helps, but I also have to make time to lay down throughout the day now!

Nutrition: Throughout most of the week, I've been really good. Bananas as snacks; homemade smoothies; lots of tomatoes, garlic, and spinach based dishes. But I did make chocolate chip banana bread yesterday... ;)

Food cravings/aversions:
Craving all sorts of things this week. Today its pancakes. Yesterday it was chocolate chip banana bread. Earlier this week it was Sesame Peanut noodles. I just love food!

Signs of Stretch Marks: Nothing new since last week. Still using Burt's Bees Belly Butter!

Maternity Clothes: Well, I really can't stretch my shirts enough to fit anymore. :/ I've done a lot searching over the past couple weeks and have been pretty disappointed by the options. It feels like all the cute maternity clothes are ridiculously expensive. Any suggestions, mama friends?!

Sleep: I sleep well as long as I stay on my left side. If I sleep too long on my right side, I wake up with that rib pain, which is not a fun way to start the day! I can't imagine sleeping without my body pillow at this point.

Feeling: Again, up & down. Physically, my ribs & hips hurt most, but I just have to listen to my body & take a break when necessary. Emotionally, I am so ready for springtime: for my husband to not work so late anymore; for flowers to start blooming & for warm weather to arrive so I can spend more time outside; to move back to Vermont and to hold this little guy in my arms!

Baby Movement: Oh yeah! He was definitely most active between 25-28 weeks, but he still moves around all the time. I can tell he's gaining weight too - his movements not only feel stronger but they just look bigger!

Belly Button In or Out? In - soooo ready to pop though!

Wedding Rings On or Off? On - but I have experienced some mild swelling in my feet if I stand up for too long.

What I miss most this week: Spending time with my husband! He's been getting home around 9pm every night and leaves before I wake up. :(

Best moment this week: Eating lots of food this weekend with my husband!

Looking forward to: Honestly, just looking forward to getting this week over with and knocking as many things off my to do list as I can. Next week my husband will be on a different client in Vermont and I'm going with him!

Please leave me any maternity clothing suggestions! Love hearing from you all. :)

xo kristen genevieve

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