Archive for Health & Wellness

12 Ways to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth

Check out my latest post on Boston Mamas: 12 Ways to Get Kids to Brush Their Teeth.

Pediatric dentists recommend cleaning your children’s teeth as soon as the first baby teeth emerge. According to the CDC, nearly 20% of children 2 and 5 years old already have at least one untreated cavity. Yikes.

Our 2-year-old protested tooth brushing daily until we took him to a pediatric dentist, who shared some useful tips with us. The following is a list of the best tips that we’ve gathered from veteran moms, pediatric dentists, and our own trial and error:

Check out the rest of my post on Boston Mamas.

Post-weaning Blues

Several months ago, I stopped nursing baby C for a number of reasons but primarily because it was growing increasingly difficult and stressful to try to fit my pumping schedule into my full-time work schedule. I was able to breastfeed C through his first 10 months of life and it’s honestly one of my proudest accomplishments thus far, but the weaning process brought with it some unexpectedly dark days.

For months, I had been eagerly anticipating all of the wonderful things that could happen once I finally stopped breastfeeding: No longer having to drag myself out of bed at 2:00 AM to pump, the freedom of being able to eat meals without referring to the food guide pyramid taped to my fridge, finally being able to indulge in a glass of Riesling at dinner, and of course, reuniting with my beloved Keurig and enjoying guilt-free sips of Wolfgang Puck’s Hawaiian Hazelnut coffee each and every morning. Woo hoo! I simply could.not.wait!

I was totally unprepared for the adverse effect that weaning would have on my emotional well-being which I attribute to my temporary hormonal imbalance. Although I don’t believe that I actually suffered from full-blown Postpartum Depression (PPD), almost a year after my child was born, I experienced many of the symptoms of late onset PPD, including a sudden sense of emptiness, chronic low-level anxiety that I had never felt before, and persistent feelings of guilt and regret. I became very critical of decisions that I had made in the past (things that I now see as inconsequential) and worried that they might have detrimental effects on my son’s future. In general, I grew intensely worried about the baby. I am an overprotective mama by nature so this just brought me to an extreme. I felt like I had to protect him from every little person, place, or thing that we encountered.

Many of the medical professionals that you see right after childbirth, from your OB to your child’s pediatrician, inquire in one way or another about whether you are experiencing any symptoms of PPD. All eyes seem to be on you watching like a hawk for any possible signs. But after several months postpartum, assuming you show no signs of distress, everyone seems to stop asking about it.

In general, there seems to be very little awareness about late onset PPD and very little information available to the parenting community about the possibility of developing it after weaning. I chat with some of my most experienced mommy friends on a daily basis and have never heard any of them talk about this going through this before. I read about 8 pregnancy books when I was expecting (yes, I tend to overdo it) and don’t recall reading about this once. Surprisingly, even a Google search doesn’t yield much information from reliable sources on the topic.

For me, just being able to identify and have a label for what was going on in my body/brain was enormously helpful. I talked about how I was feeling with my hubby so that he could lend extra support and I felt comfortable confiding in my very best friend who I knew would never pass judgment. I made a concerted effort to try to occupy my mind with exciting short-term projects such as planning C’s birthday party and work-related events. After a few months, my hormones seemed to have leveled themselves out and thankfully things have gone back to normal.  

In writing about this, I’m not hoping to gain sympathy, attention, or anything of the sort. I’m just hoping that perhaps someday this post might be informative or helpful to another new mama going through a similar experience.

Has anyone else dealt with symptoms of late onset postpartum depression after weaning?

Regaining Pregnancy Weight: The Unthinkable Phenomenon

For the first two trimesters of my pregnancy, I was really careful about diet and exercise and was right on track to gaining somewhere around the recommended 25 lbs. But the third trimester was a doozy and before I knew it, I had gained a whopping 40 lbs. seemingly overnight! I think much of it was water retention as I sported Miss Piggy feet and some pretty sweet Kielbasa fingers for the last few weeks, but it was still pretty discouraging.

Thanks to breastfeeding and a baby who had to be walked to sleep for what felt like hours each night, I lost every single one of those 40 pounds within the first few weeks without expending any extra effort outside of normal new mommy duties. As someone who has always struggled with my weight, I was thrilled.

But then the unthinkable happened… I REGAINED my pregnancy weight. Not all of it of course. Ha. That would be amusing (not really). But after baby started sleeping through the night and I started to get the hang of this mommy thing, I actually gained BACK 5 lbs. of my pregnancy weight. What the!?! I mean seriously, who DOES that?!

Has anyone else experienced this unthinkable phenomenon?  I tried Googling this: “Regaining pregnancy weight.” No results found. “Gaining pregnancy weight back after losing it.” Still nothing. Great, it seems I’m the only moron who has allowed this to happen. I was given a free pass and I blew it. Enough is enough. I have to stop this from spiraling out of control.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but this is a great time to commit to making a big change.  I’ve always hated running, but have learned to just do it anyways because it’s the only way I can keep my weight in check. I was running 6 miles a day when I found out I was pregnant, but then stopped cold turkey because I was afraid to hurt the baby. Time to pound the pavement once again. My goal is to lose those last pesky 5 lbs. plus another 10 by the summer. I figure if I commit to this publicly, then I’ll have to stick to it!

Wish me luck.


Sad news for rice lovers

I swear this isn’t a blog just about pregnancy, but having recently been an overly cautious pregnant lady, I find that any headlines related to risks during pregnancy still capture my attention. Yesterday, I heard on the evening news that women might want to be cautious about eating rice while pregnant! RICE?! What possible harm could a little fluffy white rice do? This piqued my interest so I dug a little further.  

Researchers recently published a paper in PNAS which suggests that rice consumption may lead to potentially harmful arsenic exposure in pregnant women.  Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and rice absorbs more arsenic from soil than other crops because it is grown in flooded fields, which dramatically changes the soil chemistry.

For those of you who are interested in the specifics, the researchers reported that pregnant “women who ate the national (US) average of half a cup of cooked rice per day in two days prior to urine collection, ingested an amount of arsenic equivalent to drinking four and a quarter cups of water per day containing arsenic at the maximum allowable level set by the EPA.”

Although arsenic exposure obviously isn’t great for anyone, exposure during pregnancy is a particular concern due to the additional health risks imposed on the fetus. In utero arsenic exposure has been related to infant mortality, low birth weight, poor immune function, and increased mortality from lung cancer later in life.

This one is particularly worrisome to me because I’m Asian (okay, okay, Asian-American is probably a more accurate descriptor) and grew up eating (several bowls of) rice on a daily basis. Also, I’m fairly certain my own mom ate a ton of rice while she was pregnant with me! Although most of the news articles on this are clear that there has not yet been any definitive study that suggests that rice consumption has led to adverse health effects, I’ll be following this one closely.

How traffic fumes can affect your unborn baby

My office building sits along a major commuter highway in the Boston area (128 for all you locals). When I was pregnant, I always intended to get out of the office and take a walk at lunchtime to get some exercise and “fresh air,” but for some reason I never once did. Something would come up, I’d be too busy, or sometimes it was just plain laziness that kept me indoors. But I read something today that makes me feel better about never following through on my lunchtime intentions.

In an article in today’s Wall Street Jourrnal titled, “The Hidden Toll of Traffic Jams,” Robert Lee Hotz talks about how exposure to traffic exhaust can damage the human brain by injuring brain cells and synapses key to learning and memory. The article suggests that exposure to air pollution may adversely affect mental capacity, intelligence and emotional stability at every stage of life.

A group at Columbia University’s Center for Children’s Environmental Health studied the effect of exhaust on expectant mothers. Their research suggests that the mother’s exposure – what she breathed in her lungs- could affect her child’s later behavior. They discovered that prenatal exposure to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in exhaust could leave a molecular mark on the genome of a newborn for life, and that children in areas affected by high levels of emissions, on average, scored more poorly on intelligence tests and were more prone to depression, anxiety and attention problems than children growing up in cleaner air.

Egads! Makes you really think twice about where you live, work, and play. Makes me even consider changing my commute so that I’m not stuck in traffic for hours everyday amongst thousands of other idling cars and trucks.

Add this to the long list of things to be paranoid about during my next pregnancy!