Archive for February, 2009

Toys And Television For Your Toddler: How Much Is Too Much?

Did you know that nearly half of America’s three month old babies are regular television viewers? Yes, that’s three MONTHS old, according to researchers at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Ninety percent of two year olds get to know Blue, Barney, Dora, her devil-may-care cousin Diego and that sippy-cup-set superstar Elmo intimately through daily television viewing.

How ’bout those insanely trippy DVDs we rush to the store to buy so we can make our children the next Bill Gates, or those space gobbling contraptions we buy that zing and whir and light up? How about those developmental video games targetted at two year olds?

American parents (including me) have poured — and continue to pour — gazillions of dollars into the educational television and toy industry…but are all these entrancing trinkets making a difference?

Well, maybe…and maybe not in a good way….

Dr. Sarah Rizvi is a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine, and she says kids need to play the old fashioned way. They need to pretend. They need to imagine.

They need to “make believe”…

Hear What Dr. Rizvi Has To Say About Children And Play:
So if you have an infant, I’m not gonna say it’s wrong to get an infant DVD. I had one, thank goodness. It’s the only way I ever got to brush my teeth. I’m not going to say you should throw your exersaucer away. When my daughter had HFM it’s the only place I could get her to eat!

I am saying that what infants need are touch, eye contact and conversation. Lots of it. As they become toddlers, they need all of that plus they need their parents to play blocks with them, or dolls, or peek-a-boo.When they’re older, still, they need a stick and a box and a blanket and a couple of cans and string…whatever. No doubt, my daughter would find a way to make that haul into a crown, a wand and a batman cape (she’s confused).

Don’t feel guilty if your kid has a bunch of things, or watches some tv. I don’t. But they’re extras. They’re fillers. The real way to healthy development is through old fashioned play. The kind you did when you were a kid. The kind I did when I was a kid.

And remember, adults need to make time to play, too. We often forget that. So when the kids go to bed, why don’t you and your partner make a fort out of sofa cushions and blankets? I guarantee, you’ll thank me later. ;)

Hear much more good advice from Dr. Rizvi at our Pea in the Podcast home page. She shares everything you need to know about caring for your newborn

For The Record
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly urges you to not let your child under two years old watch tv. At all. It’s in bold print and everything. This time is essential for brain development, and there is concern that even tv targetted at little ones can do more harm than good. The AAP suggests that even older children watch no more than two hours of quality programming a day. You can out more about their recommendations here, and some compelling reasons why you should limit your child’s tv viewing here.

A Blood Test May Identify Those At Risk For Postpartum Depression

The story of Andrea Yates stunned the nation. The enormity of a mother drowning her five children — one after the other — in the bathtub of their home is difficult to get your mind around.

Frankly, I didn’t want to.

On an average day in suburban Houston, Yates filled her tub. She then held Noah, Luke, Paul, John and Mary under the water until they were dead.

Horrifying. Heartbreaking. Preventable.

When I hear of a case like this, the first question I ask is, “How old was the baby?” There is so very often a baby.

Mary Yates was six months old.

Andrea Yates, by many expert accounts, was suffering from postpartum psychosis.

Postpartum depression is not postpartum psychosis, but the Yates case brought an issue with which so many new moms struggle into the national spotlight.

Thank goodness.

The Mayo Clinic says postpartum depression (PPD) strikes 10 percent of new mothers. I suspect the number is far higher, but many women struggle with with it in silence and shame.

There is no shame in it.

Some new moms are ashamed when they don’t feel this mythical boundless joy at new motherhood, some see depression as a weakness or something they should be able to overcome with willpower, some think it’s just the baby blues (also real, and more common than PPD) and some don’t recognize that they’re depressed until they’re feeling better.

But imagine if all new moms who suffer with PPD were able to catch it early, and get help?

Now imagine these moms knew they were at risk before their baby was even born. Imagine that, by knowing this, there might be something a mom-to-be’s doctor could do to lessen the severity of their symptoms, or watch them closely after birth for signs that they’re spiraling into depression, and do something about it quickly?

Some research out of the University of California at Irvine say it’s possible.

The study — which is admittedly small — tested the levels of a hormone produced by the placenta midway through pregnancy. The success rate in identifying women who would later develop postpartum depression was 75%.

That is too large a number too ignore.

The hormone is placental corticotropin-releasing hormone. This hormone regulates the body’s response to stress, and is normally present in very small amounts. During pregnancy, though, the placenta produces a lot of the stuff. This may be to prepare a mom-to-be for the stress of labor.

BUT, in women who may be headed toward PPD, this hormone was detected in even higher amounts at 25 weeks gestation. Doctors were 3/4s of the time able to accurately predict, with this simple blood test, who would show signs of PPD. They say adding psychological evaluations increased the accuracy.


If you’re likely to get postpartum depression, you want to know. Not only does it make difficult for you to cope with simple, everyday issues, but it makes “baby boot camp” (which is hard enough) nearly impossible to navigate.

That is not ok. You deserve the joyful yet intimidating and exhausting time with your new baby you expect to have.

And PPD is not good for babies. If a new mom is overwhelmed with the symptoms of depression, she simply cannot care for her newborn in the way an infant needs. Newborns need to be touched and held and responded to when they cry. If they are not, they can develop cognitive delays and behavior problems. It can also interfere with the very, very important attachment process between a mom and her baby, which can have lifelong consequences.

So if a simple blood test could identify if you’re at risk, well, that’s wonderful! After further study, maybe docs will add it to the list of second trimester tests you’ll be getting, anyway.

My Baby And Me At Six Months, Finally Figuring Each Other Out.

Much more on postpartum depression — the signs and symptoms, the treatment, and why you should not be ashamed — can be found in our Pea in the Podcast on “Baby Boot Camp”, which is what we call the sometimes overwhelming time after you bring baby home. We talk to Dr. Alison Wilson, a psychologist who is an expert in PPD. She is also featured in our podcast on your emotional health during pregnancy. I urge all of you to check them out. So few of us are prepared for the emotional pitfalls of pregnancy and the postpartum period.

I wasn’t. I didn’t suffer from PPD, thankfully, but no one prepared me for the overwhelming emotions — the high highs, the low lows, the intense love and the intense exhaustion — I would feel after my baby came.

No one really can, it’s that singular an experience, but I hope we at Pea in the Podcast can help you be better prepared for this wild ride! :)

On a side note, if you’re on Facebook, why don’t you join us on our Pea in the Podcast “page”? There you will be alerted about when I blog, and we’ll keep you informed about all the developments on our site. I hope to see you there!

Mommy on the Move!

You may have noticed I have been absent, of late. In the last month, I have resigned from a company at which I worked for ten years, packed up my stuff and my baby’s stuff, rented a U-Haul and taken several trips in my loaded Escape, as well, and moved five hours north to the location of my graduate school! I started classes two weeks ago, and have been living between two distant cities for two weeks. With a three year old lol.

I thought I could do it all, and keep blogging regularly. Turns out I couldn’t, but I’m back! Tonight I’ll talk about a blood test that may be able to predict whether you’re at risk for postpartum depression. This is excellent news, and I’ll tell you why. Come on back for that!

In the meantime, my daughter and I are getting settled into our new, adorable home, and I am figuring out this new life of mine, as a mom and as an individual.

As you might expect, this move has not occurred without the occasional stumble.

In several shows at Pea in the Podcast, I talk about the importance of having a support system. Every mom needs one. Whether it’s your family, a close circle of friends, or one you create through mommy groups, people you hire like postpartum doulas, or your local baby yoga class, a support system is essential.

I don’t really have one yet in North Texas.

So on Monday, as I prepared to go to class and leave my daughter with her father’s cousin (for the first time) I heard the sad news that her sister’s husband had died. She would — of course — be with her. But was was I to do with my baby? I immediately decided I would bring her to class with me. After all, I’m getting my Master’s in Child Development! Why would they mind a three year old in the room lol?

Thankfully, though, my daughter’s father had a friend — who also knew my daughter — who was willing and able to watch her.

Support system building begins! We’re having lunch tomorrow. :)

On a side note, I got very lost trying to find her house, and was late for class lol. Ah, the joys of living in an unfamiliar city! Oh, and the joy of being me. I get lost just about every time I get in the car. It’s sad, but true.

I was concerned that this move would be hard on my daughter. She’s already experienced the separation and divorce of her father and mother. So as we went to look for apartments, I explained that she would get to pick our new home. I liked our first choice, and so did she, so I asked if she picked it. She said yes, and for the next several weeks told everyone, gleefully, she had picked our new home, and did a good job, because mommy loved it. She’s still thrilled that she “picked” our home. :)

One day my daughter asked why we were doing this…this move. I said, simply, mommy wanted to spend more time with her girl, so she was going back to school to do something she loved. She thought about it for just a second, then said…

“That sounds like a good idea.”

That sounds like a good idea. Since the moment I conceived it, it sounded like a good idea to me, too. A good idea for me, and most importantly, a good idea that would improve and enrich the life of my daughter, Aidan Kate.

If you have an idea that you think might make you a happier and more fulfilled mommy, go for it! A happy mother is more in tune with her kids, and her kids are happier, too.

So now I’m settled in a ready to get back to blogging. Yay!

And remember, you beautiful moms-to-be, your pregnancy week-by-week audio shows are up at Pea in the Podcast. Dr. Laurie Swaim and I accompany you on your pregnancy journey, updating you week by week on what’s going on with your body and your baby.

You can also listen to a variety of podcasts about your pregnancy, preparing for your baby, and what you need to know to be ready when your miracle arrives.

Get on over there, mamas! :)