Haute Mamas – The New Maternity Chic

Baby & Pregnancy, Style

Haute Mamas – The New Maternity Chic

No Comments 18 July 2011

I have always dreaded pregnancy. Not for the discomfort, not for the weight gain, not for the agony of childbirth…but for the clothes! Like many women, I have never wanted to look comfortable and stain-proof in an insipid floral smock. A woman having a baby should not have to dress like one, nor should she suddenly divest herself of black chiffon, kitten heels and cleavage, especially when this might be the best cleavage of her lifetime.

Recently I found role models who have followed that code of nonchalant goddess charm, bearing their burgeoning bodies with a breezy, seductive élan. Revelation number one was Uma Thurman at the Oscars in an evening dress that was almost all bustline. Va va voom! Revelation number two was Kate Moss’s nine-month fashion parade of delicate printed chiffons, denim skirts, UGG boots and Grecian-style evening dresses that made pregnancy look almost fun.

Real-life revelation number three came when one of my best friends fell pregnant at 41. Six-feet tall and imperiously vampish, she wore 1930s bias-cut silk satin slips layered in contrasting hand-dyed shades of magenta and scarlet, with silk chiffon wraps knotted loosely over her burgeoning bust. The night before her waters broke she was lounging about in a black, stretch-georgette evening dress and bare feet. Swollen ankles and hellish water retention did not weary her and it was a joy to behold.

Pregnancy does not automatically equal 9 months of frumpdom. For the career mom, Diane Von Furstenburg does a big belly wrap in stretch silk jersey. For the action mom, Gap does a series of boot-cut jeans that accommodate three phases of tummy expansion from just showing to their extended panel model which is big enough for twins. Heck, I even found black leather Sheryl Crow-style pants for the expectant rock chick at www.apeainthepod.com, a fantastic fashion company that commissions contemporary designers such as Anna Sui and TIBI to make their sundresses. The store even provides a full-length beaded wedding dress in duchess satin by Nicole Miller. Now that is modern maternity style!

Cruising the Web for pretty pregnant clothes is a relaxing alternative to struggling through busy department stores and the prices are competitive. Like shopping for “normal” fashion, it pays to balance designer items against less expensive basics. Get your denim capris at Old Navy or Gap Maternity and splurge on a ruched-fronted poplin shirt and a keyhole peasant blouse at www.belissimama.com, or plunk down for a Vivianne Tam T-shirt at www.thematernitymall.com. The sensible mother-to-be would do well to choose some pieces (especially tops) that can be used during and after their pregnancy—and well into nursing. Button-front shirts and loose Nehru-style tops can accommodate a bigger bust, easy access for feeding and grabby little paws better than a plain T-shirt.

Pumpkin Wurtzel, of www.pumpkinmaternity.com (a fashion site and Nolita boutique devoted to street-wise Mommy fashion), stresses the importance of good underwear during your gestation. “If you are wearing pretty and supportive undergarments it makes dressing more of a joy. I became a fan of the thong during my first pregnancy but I can also understand women loving those baggy ‘granny’ knickers at full term.” Pumpkin’s site sells both and plenty of witty little sundresses besides.

“Women” says Pumpkin sagely, “have different trouble spots during pregnancy. Some don’t love their arms or their knees and I design with these issues in mind.” Expecting her second baby shortly, Pumpkin says the best thing about pregnant style is actually overcoming niggling body issues in favor of the big picture. “Having your body change in ways you can’t control allows a woman to let go of a lot of self-obsession. This selflessness is the first step to becoming a parent.” Amen!

Fertile, fabulous, full-figured and free-spirited, there is nothing more attractive than a woman owning up to her changes with grace and humor. The funniest item I found on the Mommy market was a T-shirt that read “Got Breastmilk?” ($16.00, www.hotmama.com) just getting the chance to wear one of those would make all of the hard work worth it!

Whether you are just showing or in the last throes of carrying your baby, do find ways to liven up the process with style. Here are seven more tips for the round set. Bless your darling D-cups!

1. Sew stylish: Crafty mommies on a budget can make their own chic sheaths. Check out VOGUE Pattern no. 2750 for a stretch wrap dress with Juliet sleeves, or VOGUE Pattern no. 1757 for a swing coat for day.

2. Va-va-vintage: The best vintage styles to wear while pregnant are oversize rayon ’40s dresses (with espadrilles), full-length negligees (for sexy lounging), swing-back opera coats (for evening cover ups) and oversized men’s shirts worn open over tanks and sarongs.

3. Belly balm: Bare bellies are a big summer trend with proud types wearing tight tanks and hipster-style cargo pants. Frankly, I think this looks like Britney Spears with indigestion but if you must strut the gut…moisturize it! Tummy skin is fragile and needs constant attention to avoid stretch marks and dehydration.

4. Functional footware: Shoes need to support you properly and fit swollen feet. Ignore Carrie Bradshaw and Manolo Blahnik fans everywhere and wear Birkenstocks if you need to. A long, bias-cut skirt will compliment them.

5. Accessorize: Don’t be a plain Jane! Accent your new boobs with a velvet-trimmed shawl for evening or a double strand of faux pearls. Wear anything now that you can’t later on…dangly earrings, chokers, complex trailing ringlets…all will be taboo once baby starts clutching.

6. Lingerie indulgence: Splurge on a sexy black lace-trimmed bra (www.biggirl’sbra.com) now or forever hold your peace in the nursing numbers that are to come.

7. Pattern power: Polka dots, horizontal stripes, gaudy florals and funky plaids can all be worn while pregnant. This is the one time in a woman’s life when she does not need to slim down or pretend to be 10 pounds lighter!

Baby & Pregnancy

Emergency Parenting Kit

No Comments 22 May 2011

Late last night as I was feeding Lucy, I realized something: I no longer need to burp her. Burping used to be a major activity of my day. So major, in fact, that I used to pass Lucy off to Adam for as many burps as possible, just so he wouldn’t feel left out.

Now, during the rare times when Lucy needs to burp, she can do it herself. I never thought I would be nostalgic for burping. But here I am, realizing that part of motherhood is gone.

I’ll live. And I doubt I will feel as nostalgic for the days when diapers also are a thing of the past.

It is a reminder, though, of one of the facts of parenthood. Nothing stays the same for very long. As if that’s not hard enough to think about when you’re the mother of an adorable 9-month-old, sometimes the changes that happen aren’t all that delightful.

For example, the next time burping is a big deal for Lucy, she’ll probably be belching the alphabet – in public. At a religious service or fancy dinner. And I will either want to die, or kill her.

To prevent that from happening, I’ve developed a coping system. I call it, “The Envelope, Please.”

It’s kind of like the emergency fire extinguishers you can find in public spaces, only without all that dangerous glass you have to break. What’s with that glass, anyway? Is a fire so tame that we need severed arteries, too? I’ll stick with paper cuts and envelopes, thank you very much.

And I will make one for every little parenting emergency I can think of. They will remind me that, like infant gas, these things too shall pass:

Here are the contents of the belching envelope, along with a few others:

Open this when Lucy burps rudely in public.Once upon a time, Lucy needed your help to burp. When you couldn’t pass the job off onto Adam (lazy Martha!), you used to sit up in bed, holding her with one hand on either side of her chicken-sized rib cage.

Then you would rock her back and forth until the burp came out. Lucy was so tired during these late-night belching sessions that she couldn’t hold her head up. (She couldn’t even do this well during the day, when she was at full throttle.) And when you were burping her, her tiny head would loll back and forth, like an overgrown flower blossom. It was so cute.

Feel glad that all you have to do now is tell her she needs to leave the room when a burp is coming on. But be sure to tell her some kids have died by burping on purpose. Yes, this is a lie. But what she doesn’t know makes your life easier.

Open this when Lucy wants to sleep in ridiculously late. Set your alarm clock for 5 a.m. Go into Lucy’s room, crawl in bed with her and say, “Bah bah bah” as you poke at her eyelids. Tell her it’s payback for all those times she did the same to you. Tell her that when she was just a baby, she woke up at 5 EVERY DAY, no matter how many times she cried in the middle of the night. And, tell her she liked it.

Open this when you have to ground Lucy. Did you just take away her TV, her computer, or her hovercraft? It used to be all you had to do was take away the piece of paper she was waving around, and Lucy would feel most grievously abused. The thing is, you did it for her own good. Not only did she like to crawl around with a pinch of paper between her cheek and gums, the paper was more often than not something you needed and were too harried to file. It’s still your job to protect Lucy from herself at times. And I sure hope you’re better at filing these days.

Open this when Lucy complains about your music. Did she just say, “Yuck. R.E.M. is so old-school”? Tell her that you listened to the Baby Van Gogh rendition of “the Blue Danube for tiny ears” at least 1,000 times. Besides, R.E.M. will always be cool.

Open this when Lucy refuses to eat her vegetables. When Lucy was a baby, she loved vegetables in the following order: peas, corn, potatoes, broccoli, squash and green beans. She hated bananas, and merely tolerated other fruits. You didn’t force anything on to her then, so why start now?

Open this when Lucy begs and begs for toys at the store. It’s Adam’s fault. He had a thing for buying that baby any fuzzy thing that Lucy would reach for in the store. Buy it, but make him pay.

Open this when Lucy begs for a new car. Say, “Of course, Lucy. Daddy’s rule always was, if you put something in your mouth, we had to buy it.”

How’s that bumper taste?

Open this when Lucy wears clothes you hate.Once upon a time, you used to dress Lucy in booties shaped like duck feet. You also made her wear funny hats and a pink tankini. It’s OK for you to hate Lucy’s clothes. It’s good for you to talk about what she wears, and the effect it has on people. But once she’s old enough, she really does get to choose her own outfits. The duck feet didn’t scar her for life. And whatever ridiculous thing she wants to wear won’t scar you, either.

Open this when Lucy doesn’t want to do chores. When Lucy was a baby, she couldn’t do any chores at all. You and Adam changed all the diapers. You hosed down the high chair. You cleaned the sticky rice off her thighs, her ears, her hands and other unmentionable places. If you can get Lucy to do one thing, you’re ahead. And if that one thing is her own laundry, consider yourself to be the luckiest Mom in the world.

Open this when Lucy says she hates you, she really HATES you. Starting when Lucy was six months old, you couldn’t walk through the room without acknowledging her, or she would cry. When she was nine months old, and you left for a few seconds to get a glass of water, she would scream. The mere sight of you was enough to make Lucy kick her legs and wave her arms. The same would happen when she saw Adam.

No matter what she says, Lucy loves you. And it’s probably for the best that she has outgrown the kicking thing. That would be very embarrassing at school.

Open this when you’re talking and Lucy isn’t responding. When Lucy was a baby, you used to talk to her all day long. Every once and awhile, she’d smile, or look like she understood. Sometimes, she’d try to talk back – although this mostly only happened when you were making chicken noises. Yes, Lucy first imitated you when you were saying, “Bok bok bok b-Gok!”

Mostly, though, she would just stare curiously. Is she doing the same thing now? Don’t worry about it. Even before you two could talk, you almost always knew just what she needed: your time, your attention, and most of all, your love.

Sometimes, you were so tired that all you really wanted to do was close your eyes for 15 minutes and think of what it used to feel like to be on a sandy beach. And those were the times it was most important to breathe deeply and give Lucy a hug.

So if the distance between you and Lucy feels wide as an ocean, if you can’t find common ground over the sound a chicken makes, remember this: She is the child. You are the grown-up. Be kind, be patient and — no matter what — be there.

Once upon a time, when Lucy was a baby, you learned that raising a child was like trying to hold onto water: The best you can do is keep your hand in there while the water flows around you. Things change. Lucy grows.

And the water? You could not live without it

How Do I Get Baby To Sleep Through The Night in 21 Steps

Baby & Pregnancy

How Do I Get Baby To Sleep Through The Night in 21 Steps

No Comments 08 October 2010

Putting a baby to sleep is a very simple task, though for some reason, it befuddles new parents everywhere.

Adam and I have managed to get Lucy to sleep for as long as 20 minutes straight using this simple, nonpatented formula. It’s revolutionary, really. If I had the time, I’d write a book about it, just so I could knock that irritating Baby Whisperer and all of her gratuitous uses of the word cadswallop right off The New York Times best seller list.

But I don’t have enough time. Most of my waking minutes are spent putting Lucy to sleep using this method, which, as I have said, is not only very simple, it is also fool-proof.

Get Baby To Sleep Through The Night

Step 1: Make sure it’s time to get baby ready for bed. You may be disoriented, but you do not want to skip this step. Clocks are reliable tools for this, though in a pinch, you can rely on that round yellow thing in the sky. If the yellow thing is near where the sky and the earth make a line (can anyone remember what that’s called?), then it’s probably just about time to get baby ready for bed.

Once you have looked at the clock and confirmed that yes, it is 6:15 in the morning, then it’s time to begin. The baby has already been up for an hour, anyway, playing pat-a-cake on your husband’s cheeks. And if she doesn’t get her rest, where will she find the energy to repeat this glorious process tomorrow?

Step 2: Feed the baby breakfast. It is a fact universally acknowledged that babies cannot go to sleep at night without a good breakfast, preferably one smeared in their hair and tucked into their folds. Another essential part of a balanced breakfast is to spread chunky remnants of it all over the high chair. This gives you the opportunity to use that crème brulee blowtorch. Yes, you meant to create glorious desserts to serve at swank parties. But those dreams are dead to you now. As dead as the jade plant in the kitchen, the poor thing.

Step 3: Have a nice cup of decaffeinated coffee. There’s nothing quite like it to power you through the morning. While you are sitting on the floor drinking coffee, the baby can play beside you. No matter how many toys she has, your cup of hot coffee will be the most interesting thing in the room, followed by the irritable (and sleeping) cat.

Step 4: Wash the baby. You would no sooner put a crusty baby to bed than you would get in your own bed wearing the shoes you mowed the lawn in. That would mean you would then have laundry to do. Everyone knows that laundry breeds fine all by itself in the hamper, and it’s senseless for you to add to the party. It’s best to wash the baby in the bathtub. Showers are not recommended for this, as babies do not yet know how good a shower feels in the morning. Sadly, you do, and you rarely get to take one uninterrupted. But this is because you are rushing through Step 5. See below.

Step 5: Put baby down for her morning nap. You notice she is rubbing her eyes. Hopefully, you have finished with Step 4 (baby washing) before this happens, or you will find yourself wondering how to get oatmeal out of eyelashes. If I knew an easy way to do that, do you think I’d be home in my dirty little office, or do you think I’d be in St. Tropez, drinking tropical beverages in the cabana? Right. I’d be rich and carefree. All I can say is to wash the baby first.

Step 6: Apologize to the baby for trying to put her in a bed made out of nails. Yes, you can’t see the nails. But she can feel them, insinuating their pointy tips into the soft, perfect flesh of her back. She lets you know about the nails by screaming, rolling over, and bonking her head on the crib.

Step 7: After verifying that the nails on the crib mattress have left the building, put baby down for her morning nap again.

Step 8: Apologize again.

Step 9: Repeat until baby is worn out.

Step 10: Begin your shower.

Step 11: Just as you’ve soaped your hide, you hear the sound of baby bonking her head, then screaming. What to do? What to do? Hurry and finish shower. Wrap yourself in a towel. Pick up baby (while the towel unwraps itself, showing the world your pale rear end).

Step 12: Put on clothes with one hand, while entertaining the baby with another. Remember, a happy baby is a baby who goes to sleep easily.

Step 13: It’s lunchtime for baby. Repeat Steps 4 and 5.

Step 14: Make your own lunch with one hand, while holding baby in the other. Explain to her that you would like to give her a bite of your sandwich, but she only has three teeth. Be firm. You already turned the dog into an incorrigible beggar, and it would be even more embarrassing to do this to your child.

Step 15: It’s playtime again. Playtime is necessary because it tires a baby out, leaving her a prime candidate for nighttime sleeping. Options include: going for a walk; eating fur and breadcrumbs off the floor; and trying to trick her into thinking laundry is fun. I recommend the first and third. I am fairly certain the second can get you arrested, and I am officially not saying whether Lucy has ever done anything like this.

Step 16: Time for an afternoon nap. You read somewhere that 9-month-old babies take three hours worth of naps each day. This means yours is due to sleep for two hours and 40 minutes, because she only slept for 20 minutes in the morning.

Step 17: After verifying repeatedly that the crib mattress does not, in fact, have scorpions scuttling about all over it, put the baby down for her afternoon nap. As you walk away from the nursery, think about all the things you can accomplish in this grand two hours and 40 minutes that you have coming. Is there laundry to wash? Great! You will get it done. Dishes in the sink? Now’s your chance to wash them. Were you hoping to finish that book proposal your agent has been hounding you for? Do it!

Step 18: Hear the baby wake up, just as you hit the bottom of the stairs.

Step 19: It’s playtime again. Although you may feel as though you cannot lift your head off the carpet, the truth is that you are really discovering how educational it is for your child to use your body as a jungle gym. Admire her strength and dexterity as she crawls over you, drooling and laughing.

Step 20: Dinner time. Yours, hers, your husband’s? The cat’s and dog’s? It doesn’t matter. Everyone’s hungry. Brown pellets all around, unless your husband is cooking, in which case dinner will be very tasty.

Step 21: Bedtime is finally here. That moment you’ve been working toward all day, so you need to prop your eyelids open so that you can enjoy it. Once your eyelids are open, simply hand the baby over to her Daddy. He will take her upstairs, change her diaper, put on her jammies, and then perform what he calls “the ritual.”

Some 30 minutes later, he will walk down the stairs, triumphant. The house will be quiet. You might even hear the rose bushes scratching against the walls, stirred gently to life by a cool evening breeze. All is well in the world. The baby is sleeping. You and your husband can have a nice talk about how you spent your day. That’s because it’ll be at least two hours before baby wakes up again.

And you can start all over.

(Note: The books say babies are capable of sleeping through the night starting at 3 months. “Capable of” does not mean the same thing as “willing to.” If your baby is younger than 1 and already sleeps through the night, feel lucky. If not, then continue to follow these simple steps for a few more months. You’ll get there. At least that’s what people have told me.)

Caring for Twins

Baby & Pregnancy

Caring for Twins

1 Comment 22 January 2010

How can I make caring for twins easier?

Your feelings are perfectly understandable. After all, caring for one child is daunting enough for many new parents, and having two at the same time can be a real jolt. Often, such concerns are unwittingly reinforced by the reactions of friends and family. Remember that no parents receive all the support they need; every new mom and dad could use more time, help, training, money and emotional backing.

With twins, these needs double, and more. You’ll require much more help than just your partner can give, so resist the urge to blame him — or yourself — when stress starts to build, and reach out for help. Find out whether your insurance plan will pay for a home visit from a nurse, or consider hiring a doula to help out during the first days or weeks at home. “Make sure you have family or friends on call if you need them,” advises Emma of New Zealand, the mother of identical girls, Charlotte and Alaina. “You have to let people know exactly what you want. Tell them politely to go away if you don’t want them there, but don’t be too proud to ask for help if you need it.”

Emma says she coped by relaxing her standards. “You have to come to terms with the fact that there are not enough hours in the day to keep the house spanking clean,” she says. “And if you just concentrate on the babies for at least the first three months, you will be a lot less stressed about everything.” She was lucky enough to have a mother who dropped in every day for weeks and did the dishes — then disappeared. “That type of help you really need.”

Can I still breastfeed with twins?

Sure. Feeding two is no harder because increased demand increases milk production. Finding a method that works may take some practice and patience, however. The trick is to find a comfortable position that works for you. Geri Martin Wilson, mother of two sets of twins in Palo Alto, Calif., breastfed her first twins until they were 2 years old and she’s still breastfeeding the second set, now nine months old. She uses a twin nursing pillow with each twin’s head cradled in a hand. Simultaneous nursing saves time and has other benefits as well. “Nursing at the same time helps put them on the same nap schedule,” says Martin Wilson. “If one wakes up at night, 95 percent of the time we wake the other up and I nurse him or her, too.”

But for Teresa Edgington of Cincinnati, things weren’t so simple. In the beginning, she tried nursing both twins, but her boy, Christian, didn’t nurse well and required lots of bottles, so Teresa switched her strategy. “It became easier to nurse one and bottle-feed the other,” she says. “Emi is predominantly breastfed and Christian nurses for comfort.”

How long a maternity leave should I plan on taking?

Like most women who’ve just given birth, you’re probably wondering how you can possibly juggle a job with parenting twins. But the deciding factors still come down to what works best for you and your family, your babies’ health, how you feel physically and emotionally, your financial circumstances and your workplace environment.

As for maternity leave, the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave after you give birth. Companies with fewer than 50 employees — the vast majority — are exempt, although they may have their own policies. If you work in a three-person office and you’re indispensable, you may find it tough to take time off.

On the other hand, with no strict guidelines imposed by law, you may be able to work out your own informal arrangement. “The plus side for those people working for smaller employers is that there may be more room to negotiate,” says Jennifer Kosko, who took 10 weeks’ maternity leave from her job as vice president of meetings and trade shows for an association. She then worked full-time until her twins were 3 years old and now does part-time consulting.

You may also be surprised to learn that when you’re pregnant with twins or more, your employer isn’t obligated by law to allow you any more time off than if you were having one baby. However, many mothers of twins find getting back into the swing of things more difficult. If you feel you need more time off, consider discussing the matter with your company’s human resources department, or talk to your boss about taking an extended leave or part-time or work-from-home arrangements. You may also decide to take a break from your career. Remember, whatever you decide works for you is the right answer to this question.

How can I find other parents of twins to talk to?

Parents of twins will empathize with your situation like no one else can. Jennifer Kosko, president of the Fairfax County, Virginia, chapter of the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs, has attended the group’s meetings since she became pregnant. “There are a lot of things that can make your life easier and it’s worth investigating, even if you’re not one of those joiners,” she says.

Case in point: Many mothers of twins find the gawking and comments that people can make insensitive and inappropriate. “You’re still put on display …, and it’s nice to come home to this group and not feel that way,” says Kosko. “When you’ve got one baby on one knee and you’re burping the other, nobody bats an eye.”

Mothers in Kosko’s group share tips on how to deal with well-meaning relatives and friends, shop for the right baby products and equipment, save money and stay sane — information you’re not going to get from parenting classes.

Contact the National Organization of Mothers of Twins Clubs (800-243-2276) for a referral to a club in your community, or try the Triplet Connection (209-474-0885). “My local twins club morning coffee has been fantastic for establishing contact with other mothers of multiples,” says Emma. “I started going when I was pregnant to get a bit of a feel for it — a bit scary at first, but it is better than being thrown in the deep end,” she says.

If no club is near you, another option is communicating via e-mail, which Emma uses to stay connected to mothers of twins all over the world. “It’s fantastic to have contact with other parents of multiples, as some baby advice doesn’t always prove useful when you are coping with more than one,” she says. “It’s nice to know that someone out there has been through it all, too.”

Baby & Pregnancy

Understanding Baby’s Ear Infections

No Comments 27 November 2009

How can I tell if my baby has an ear infection?

The easiest way to tell whether your baby has an ear infection (also known as acute otitis media) — or any other illness, for that matter — is a change in her mood. If she turns fussy, or starts crying more than usual, you should be on the lookout for a problem. If she develops a fever (whether slight or high) you have another big clue. Ear infections tend to strike after a common cold or sinus infection, so keep that in mind too. You may also notice the following symptoms:

  • Your baby pulls, grabs or tugs at her ears. This is a sign she’s in pain.
  • Diarrhea. The virus that causes ear infections can also affect the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Reduced appetite. Ear infections can cause gastrointestinal upset. They can also make it painful for your baby to swallow and chew. You may notice your baby pull away from the breast or bottle after she takes the first few sips.
  • A yellow or whitish fluid draining from the ear. This doesn’t happen to all babies, but it’s a sure sign of infection. It also signals that a small hole has developed in the eardrum. Don’t worry — this will heal on its own once the infection is treated.A foul odor emanating from the ear
  • What causes ear infections?

  • An ear infection results when fluid and bacteria build up in the area around your baby’s eardrum. Normally any fluid that enters this area leaves pretty quickly through the Eustachian tube (which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat) when your baby yawns or swallows. But if the Eustachian tube is blocked — common during colds, sinus infections, even allergy season — it traps the fluid in the middle ear. Bacteria like to grow in dark, warm, wet places, so a fluid-filled ear becomes the perfect breeding ground. As the infection worsens, so does the swelling in and around the eardrum, and, as a result, the pain. Fever develops as your baby’s body attempts to fight the infection.

    Babies are particularly susceptible to ear infections because their Eustachian tubes are short (about 1/2 an inch) and horizontal. As they grow to adulthood, the tube triples in length to 1 1/2 inches and become more vertical, so fluid can drain more easily. Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses. While there are no statistics on how many babies get them, the American Academy of Pediatrics expects that most children will have gotten at least one ear infection by the time they turn 3.

    When should I call the doctor?

    Call the doctor at the first sign of an ear infection. He’ll ask you to come in so he can take a look in your baby’s ear with an instrument called an otoscope. An eardrum that’s red, bulging and possibly draining is likely infected. He may also look to see whether the eardrum is moving using a pneumatic otoscope, which releases a brief puff of air into the ear. If it’s not moving, you have one more clue that fluid is collecting in the middle ear and it may be infected.

    How will the doctor treat my baby’s ear infection?

    Though recent research shows that many ear infections eventually clear up on their own without any treatment, when it comes to babies, doctors will always reach for an antibiotic. “With infants it’s better to err on the side of caution and prescribe something,” says Robert Ruben, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. The antibiotic of choice is amoxycillin, which parents refer to as “the pink stuff.” In addition, your doctor may recommend that you give your baby children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve any pain caused by the infection.

    Make sure you give your baby her entire prescription of antibiotic and follow up with an ear re-check a few weeks later so the doctor can gauge whether the medicine did its job. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if your baby seems to be getting worse or hasn’t improved significantly after a few days on the antibiotic. He may want to switch the antibiotic or examine your child again.

    What can I do to prevent ear infections in the future?
    Babies who attend day care or playgroups with other children are more prone to getting ear infections because they are exposed to more germs. That doesn’t mean you should keep your baby home all the time. That’s not fun or practical and even if you managed to do it, your baby would still catch an illness here or there. Instead, wash your hands (and your baby’s hands) often, and try these prevention ideas:

    • Keep your baby up to date on her vaccines. They help prevent certain illnesses that can lead to an ear infection. For example, the Hib vaccine has helped tremendously in reducing the number of ear infections in babies, and the new pneumococcal vaccine can help prevent them as well. If your baby has suffered repeated ear infections, especially after bouts with the flu, you may want to consider an annual flu vaccine, but talk to your doctor first. Only children over 6 months old can get a flu shot.
    • Breastfeed your baby for a minimum of six months. A recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, which appeared in the journal Pediatrics, showed that children who are breastfed for the first six months of life are less likely to develop ear infections. In fact, the risk of ear infections was 70 percent greater in formula-fed babies. Practitioners such as Ruben believe that mothers transfer certain immune-building antibodies to their babies through breast milk. However, those antibodies seem to decrease after the six-month mark.
    • Limit your baby’s exposure to tobacco smoke. Even a weekend spent in a house with a smoker can significantly harm a baby and increase her chances of getting an ear infection. Tobacco smoke seems to suppress the immune system, making it more difficult for your baby to fight off infection.

    My baby gets repeated ear infections. Can ear tubes help?

    Babies with multiple ear infections — which, for many children, is actually one ear infection that lingers on for months despite antibiotic treatment — may be good candidates for ear tubes. This procedure, known as tympanostomy, is the most common surgery performed in North America on children under 4, according to a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. In the United States alone doctors perform roughly one million ear-tube insertions each year.

    During the procedure, which is done under general anesthesia, an otolaryngologist makes a tiny incision in the child’s eardrum and inserts a millimeters-long tube into the slit. These tubes act as a vent, letting air in and fluid out so bacteria can’t flourish. “It helps the Eustachian tube work better,” says Ruben.

    Your pediatrician may suggest this surgical solution because a baby with persistent fluid in his ears (or otitis media with effusion) is not only a prime candidate for repeated ear infections, but also for hearing loss. Babies who have trouble hearing may suffer delays in language development.

    Still, the procedure is considered controversial and there is little consensus among doctors on whether it’s really necessary. Studies have shown that some babies who’ve had recurrent ear infections are a little behind when it comes to school readiness. But somewhere between 2 and 5 the connection between chronic ear infections and decreased school readiness disappears, argues Joanne E. Roberts, a senior scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Children with chronic ear infections eventually perform on par with their peers who didn’t battle ear troubles in the first few years.

    What should you do? Talk to your doctor and weigh the pros and cons for you and your baby. Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer to the ear tube question yet.

    Are ear infections ever serious?

    They can be. A severe or untreated infection can break your baby’s eardrum and flood her ear canal. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s one of the reasons it’s so important to have a doctor examine your baby’s ear if you think she may have an infection. Repeated ear infections can also lead to hearing loss and scarring. In very rare cases, untreated ear infections can lead to an infection of the skull behind the ear (mastoiditis), or meningitis.

    Baby & Pregnancy

    Traveling With a Baby

    1 Comment 20 November 2009

    Realistically, you don’t want to go anywhere with your newborn except straight home. She requires almost nonstop attention, feedings, and diaper changes, and the risk of infection from a stranger is too great. Besides, you’ll probably be exhausted.

    But by three months or so, young babies are pretty good candidates for travel — as long as the trip’s fairly mellow. Infants aren’t as fragile as parents sometimes fear. And your baby is less likely to view travel as a disruption now than she will later on. She also can’t run around yet and get into trouble. So enjoy this period: Once she begins scampering about, travel becomes a far greater challenge.

    Health and safety tips:

    • Pack pacifiers and bottles, or plan on breastfeeding during airline flights to ease ear pain.
    • Bring diaper-rash lotion, bags for dirty diapers, enough diapers for the trip, and baby-appropriate pain medication such as children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever or Mylicon drops for gas. Also: saline solution for a stuffy nose, a nasal aspirator bulb, and Anbesol or a similar ointment to put on sore gums if your baby is teething.
    • Make sure you have the first-aid supplies you need for dealing with minor medical problems during travel with your baby, along with essential medical history.
    • Bring hats and sunscreen for your baby.
    • Get removable car-shade screens for the car’s side windows to shield your baby’s skin and eyes from the sun.
    • If traveling by car, infants should always ride in the back seat in a rear-facing car seat — never in a front seat with a passenger air bag. Spend time before you leave to make sure the car seat is installed properly and that the belts on the car seat are threaded correctly. Make sure the harness fits your baby snugly and securely.

    Food and comfort

    If you aren’t breastfeeding, bring formula base and add water as needed. You can buy convenient travel-sized packs at drug and grocery stores. Bring only as much baby food as you’ll need for the ride. You can always buy what you need at your destination.

    Bring a molded plastic bib for your baby. They’re invaluable for cleaning up pureed sweet potatoes and preventing several changes of clothing a day.

    Bring a blanket so you can stop in a park to let the baby stretch.

    Tip: If your baby sleeps in a crib, reserve one when you make your room reservation or you may be out of luck when you arrive. Another option: Bring along your own portable crib.

    Entertaining your baby

    Bring an amusement bag containing a few of your baby’s favorite toys, plus a couple of new objects. Possibilities include anything shiny and new, babyproof mirrors, rattles, musical toys, soft animals, pop-up toys, plastic keys, or teething rings. Limit the number to a handful to make packing easier.

    Travel gear

    Well-traveled parents find the following equipment indispensable, both for getting to a destination and exploring once they’ve arrived.

  • For young babies, a car-seat/stroller combo takes some of the hassle out of getting in and out of cars and airplanes
  • A lightweight stroller you can stash in your car trunk or a plane’s overhead bin makes sense for babies who can sit up (you can also drop off your stroller at the departure gate and have it waiting for you on arrival)
  • A diaper bag for you to carry baby supplies
  • A sling, front- or backpack-style carrier
  • An infant seat, for babies under 6 months, that can be carried from the car into a restaurant, with the baby comfortably strapped in and still sleeping
  • A portable crib with bassinet
  • A water bottle or Thermos with extra liquids for Mom if she’s breastfeeding
  • An extra change of clothes for the baby; a clean extra shirt for both parents.

  • Baby & Pregnancy

    When Your Baby Starts Teething

    No Comments 20 November 2009

    When will your baby start getting teeth? The vast majority of babies sprout their first teeth when they’re between 4 and 7 months of age. An early developer may get her first white cap as early as 3 months, while a late bloomer may have to wait until she’s a year or more. (In rare cases, a baby’s first tooth is already visible at birth.)

    Teething patterns are hereditary, so if you got your teeth early, chances are your child will, too. The arrival of the first tooth is a big milestone: Celebrate it by taking lots of pictures, and note its arrival date in your child’s baby book.

    Teeth actually start developing while your baby’s in the womb, when tooth buds form in the gums. They sprout one at a time over a period of months, and often — but not always — in this order: First the bottom front teeth, then the top two middle ones, then the ones along the sides going back. They may not all come in straight, but don’t worry — they usually straighten out over time. The last teeth to appear (the second molars, which are the farthest back in the mouth) are usually all in place by your baby’s second birthday. By age 3, your child should have a full set of 20 baby teeth, which shouldn’t fall out until her permanent teeth are ready to come in, sometime around age 6.

    Teething symptoms: What’s normal?

    For a few fortunate babies, teething is fairly painless. But most babies are cranky and drool a lot for weeks or months before the first pearly white makes it to the surface. Why is teething usually so painful? As your baby’s teeth push their way out, they irritate the gums, swelling and inflaming them. This is why your baby may temporarily reject your breast or a bottle. Sucking rushes more blood to the swollen areas, making them especially sensitive. Try rubbing her gums before a feeding to temporarily numb the pain. Your baby will probably start to gnaw on things starting around 3 months, though her first tooth may still be a long way off.

    Though many parents say their babies become feverish or have loose stools or runny noses just before a new tooth arrives, experts are divided over whether teething is to blame for these symptoms. William Sears, a pediatrician and author of The Baby Book, believes that teething will frequently cause diarrhea and a mild diaper rash because your baby’s excessive saliva ends up in her gut and loosens her stools. Inflammation in the gums, he thinks, may be the cause of a low fever (under 101 degrees Fahrenheit).

    On the other hand, child-development experts such as Penelope Leach say teething cannot cause fever, diarrhea, vomiting or loss of appetite and that these are signs of illness that should be checked out. Noted pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton says it’s likely that such symptoms are due to an infection unrelated to teething, but that the stress associated with teething could make your child more vulnerable to infection right before a new tooth appears.

    The one thing all experts agree on is that you should call your pediatrician if your baby has a fever over 101 degrees F (or over 100.4 degrees F for babies younger than 3 months). If your baby has loose stools — but not diarrhea — don’t worry. The condition will clear up on its own.

    Your baby may get a red rash on his chin and lower lip from all the drooling. The wetness can irritate his skin, particularly at night when he rubs his face against his crib sheet. Wipe, but don’t rub, the drool off with a soft cotton cloth. You can also smooth Vaseline on his chin before a nap or bedtime to protect the skin from further irritation.

    How to ease baby’s discomfort

    Give your child something to chew on, such as a firm rubber teething ring or a cold washcloth. (You should be aware that soft plastic teethers might contain chemicals that may be linked to health problems such as cancer and infertility later in life.) If your baby is old enough for solid foods, he may also get some relief from eating cold foods such as applesauce or yogurt — the cold may temporarily numb the pain. Giving a baby a hard, unsweetened teething cracker such as zwieback to gnaw on (stale bagel slices also work well) is another time-honored trick. (Avoid carrots, as they can be a choking hazard.)

    Some parents find that simply rubbing a finger over sore gums can numb the pain temporarily. Oral analgesics such as Orajel or Zylactin are popular and safe to use, but there’s no evidence they really work; more likely it’s the pressure of your finger applying it to the swollen gums that provides relief. Some pediatricians recommend giving a teething baby a small dose of children’s pain reliever such as Infant Tylenol, but check with your doctor before giving your baby any medication. (Never give a baby aspirin or even rub it on her gums to ease the pain; aspirin is associated with Reye’s syndrome, a rare but potentially life-threatening condition.)

    Baby & Pregnancy

    How, When to Expand Your Baby’s Menu

    No Comments 19 November 2009

    When should you introduce your baby to solid foods? Nutrition experts maintain that solid food should rarely be started before the fourth month. Many pediatricians go even further and suggest waiting until your baby is at least 6 months old. In fact, in 1997 the American Academy of Pediatrics changed its recommendations and now advocates exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life.

    There are plenty of good reasons to wait until your baby reaches the half-year mark. Breast milk and formula are still easiest for your baby to digest, providing all the calories and nutrients he needs during this six-month period. Also, the chances of developing allergies are greatest during infancy, so feeding your baby a diet of breast milk or formula for as long as possible reduces the risk of introducing allergens. As your baby’s digestive system matures, he will be better able to handle different foods without an allergic reaction.

    There is another very practical reason for waiting until your baby is developmentally ready for solid foods: It will shorten the transition time between when you have to spoon-feed your baby and he begins feeding himself.

    Is your baby ready?

    Introducing solids should be coordinated with when he is developmentally ready. Look for the following cues. Your baby:

    • Has head control. It’s important that your baby be able to maintain a steady, upright position in order to eat solids from a spoon.
    • Sits well when supported. You may have to support him at first — a highchair can be pulled into action a bit later when he’s able to sit up all by himself.
    • Makes chewing motions. Your baby should be able to move food to the back of his mouth and swallow. As your baby learns to swallow efficiently you may notice his drooling decrease.
    • Shows significant weight gain. Most babies are ready to eat solids when they’ve doubled their birth weight, which may take place before or after their sixth month.
    • Displays curiosity about what you’re eating. Your baby begins eyeing your steak or reaches for your forkful of mashed potatoes as it travels from plate to mouth.

    How to begin introducing solid food

    Let him first nurse or bottle-feed. After he’s satisfied, give him about one or two tablespoons of dry cereal, mixed with enough formula or breast milk to make a soupy solution. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends iron-enriched infant rice cereal.) Give this to your baby on a rubber-tipped spoon once a day. It doesn’t need to be the morning feeding; pick a time that’s convenient for both you and baby.

    At first, your baby will seem to eat very little cereal, and it may take a while to get even that small amount into him. Be patient with your little one and remember he’s learning new eating skills.

    When your baby is eating two to three tablespoons of cereal a day, add another cereal feeding. As he begins to eat and develops more of a side-to-side grinding motion, add a little less liquid so the texture becomes thicker. This allows your baby to work on chewing (gumming) and swallowing. Your baby should be able to eat about a half cup of cereal a day before you add any other solid foods.

    Your baby’s appetite will vary from one feeding to the next, so watch for cues that he’s full. A baby who refuses to open up for the next bite, turns away or starts playing with his food is probably full.

    Do you still need to breast-feed?

    Yes. Breast milk is designed to be the perfect food for your baby’s first year. Both breast milk and formula provide important vitamins, iron and protein in an easy-to-digest form. Even though solid foods will eventually replace some of your baby’s feedings, they can’t nutritionally replace all of the nutrients that breast milk or formula provides during his first 12 months.

    Help develop healthy eating habits

    You can help your baby learn to eat right by following these simple rules:

    • Offer a variety of foods.
    • Avoid feeding your baby too much.
    • Give your baby a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables. Use sweets, salts and fats in moderation.
    • Don’t bribe or reward your child with food. Instead, offer him plenty of hugs, kisses and attention.

    Introducing other solid foods

    Solid foods should be introduced slowly, one at a time. Your baby needs time to get used to each new taste and texture. Also, a methodical introduction will allow you to watch for signs of an allergic reaction, such as diarrhea , tummy aches or rashes. If your baby is interested, add one new food every three to five days. Some pediatricians recommend starting with yellow fruits and vegetables, which are easiest for babies to digest. Others advise beginning with green veggies, as babies can sometimes get stuck on the sweeter taste of fruits and yellow vegetables and won’t give peas and beans a fighting chance.

    Start by offering your baby a few tablespoons of vegetables or fruit in the same meal as a cereal feeding. Good foods to debut with: sweet potatoes, squash, applesauce, bananas, carrots, peaches and pears. All food should be strained or mushy for a 6-month-old, because at this age babies eat by smushing food against the tops of their mouths and then swallowing.

    If you get a negative reaction from your baby, offer the food again about seven to 10 days later. He may always turn up his nose at some foods, but you should continue to offer them in hopes that one day he’ll find them more appealing.

    By the time your baby is 6 to 7 months old, he should be eating solid foods three times a day. A typical day’s diet might consist of:

    • Breast milk or iron-fortified formula. Small amounts of juice (except for citrus juices).
    • Iron-fortified cereal.
    • Yellow and green vegetables.
    • Small amounts of meats, poultry, yogurt, egg yolk, cottage cheese.
    • Fruit.

    Some general guidelines apply:

    • Introduce each new food no sooner than three to five days after the preceding new solid food.
    • Do not feed your baby raw honey before age 1 because it carries a risk of infant botulism.
    • Do not introduce the most commonly allergenic foods ” cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, other nuts, soy, fish and shellfish ” until he is a year old.
    • Don’t feed your baby beets, turnips or dark green kohl vegetables such as kale and broccoli until after he’s a year old; they have too many nitrates for younger children.
    • Depending on your infant’s diet, vitamin and/or fluoride drops may be recommended.

    Moving on to finger foods

    As your baby grows more experienced, you can increase the thickness of the foods offered to include chunkier strained and mashed foods. At about 8 months, he’s ready for finger foods cut into safe, tiny bite-size bits. Some ideal first finger foods that can be easily gummed and digested are whole-wheat bagels and breads, ripe bananas and cantaloupe, tender cooked carrots and sweet potatoes and natural soft cheeses, and whole-grain cereals (Cheerios are universally popular) and pastas.

    Special equipment for feeding

    There’s a dazzling array of feeding-related items you can buy, but none are essential. Nonetheless, there are a few that can make mealtime easier. A rubber-tipped spoon is important to protect your baby’s sensitive gums, and a plastic dish with suction cups can keep Junior’s meal on the tray table. To protect your floor, try a splat mat; it will make cleanup much simpler.

    Where to feed the baby

    Once your child is old enough to sit up on his own, feed him in a highchair or feeding chair. Handing finger foods to a crawler on the move can result in choking and leave a trail of smushed bananas across your carpet. And if a child learns to associate eating with mealtime and the dinner table, he’s less likely to develop the poor eating habits (constant snacking, eating in front of the television and so on) that contribute to obesity.

    Note: You’ll find when you add solid foods to your baby’s diet that his stools change color and odor. This is normal. Rice cereal, bananas and applesauce may be constipating. If your baby’s stools are so firm that they seem to be giving him pain, then switch from those foods to other fruits and vegetables and oatmeal or barley cereal.

    Baby & Pregnancy

    Planning for Parents: Do I Need a Will?

    No Comments 19 November 2009

    Do I need a will?

    Absolutely. If you don’t write a will — and if you live in the United States — the state you live in will determine not only the distribution of your assets but also who will be the guardian of your children. With a will, you choose who’ll raise your children in your absence and how to distribute the money you leave to them. These are steps middle-income people, as well as the rich, should take — yet 75 percent of adults under age 45 don’t have a will.

    How do I write a will?

    Preferably with the help of an estate lawyer. Wills and estate planning are fraught with complicated loopholes. To ensure that you get what you want in a will — the right guardian, the right trustees and executors, your property distributed as you direct, the proper tax and probate loopholes created — hire a lawyer.

    What does a will include?

    Though there are as many permutations to a will as there are personal belongings, the most critical aspect of a parent’s will stipulates guardianship of the children and the use of their assets — property, savings, life insurance benefits and so forth — for the children.

    Money and property may also be willed to other relatives, friends and charities. Typically, personal property is left to your main heirs, who will divide it among themselves, with or without bickering. If you want to bequeath certain items to specific people — your diamond engagement ring to your daughter, the grandfather clock to your sister, shoes to a homeless shelter — you can attach a letter to your will specifying your wishes, as long as you mention that letter in the will itself.

    How do we choose a guardian?

    Think about who you want to raise your child in your absence:

    • Who shares your values, your education, your way of life, your religion?
    • Who would you trust with your child under all circumstances?
    • Who do you think would love your child as a parent?
    • Who already knows and loves him?

    Often, the answer to these questions is a brother or sister, though it may be a best friend. Before you name a guardian, establish if he or she is willing to take on this responsibility. When a child is old enough to understand the implications, talk to him about the decision.

    You’ll also need a guardian for your child’s inheritance — someone to administer the property. Typically, you’d choose the same person for both responsibilities.

    How do we leave money to a young child?
    In your will, you can create trusts to care for your children’s financial needs. If you expect to leave them more than $20,000, including life insurance, you should put the money in a testamentary trust, described in your will. You name a trustee to distribute and manage the money per your instructions. Typically, the trustee gives the children’s guardian money from the trust to cover living expenses, education and anything else you specify. (If you know that your children will have more money than the guardian’s children, for example, you could stipulate that some funds go into a family pot for all the children in the household.)

    With a trust, you also specify how old your children must be before getting the remainder of the trust fund. To ensure wise money management, some parents name their children as co-trustees once they reach their mid-20s, or they parcel out payments so that the child gets some, say, at 25, at 35, and the rest at 45. In such cases, a typical trust permits the children to use the funds for education, to start a business, or to buy a house.

    Establishing a trust also can save your heirs headaches and taxes. If you have more than $600,000 in assets at the time of your death, your heirs may owe considerable estate taxes. One way to secure the money for your children and beat the tax man is to set up an irrevocable life insurance trust. With this plan, any life insurance proceeds will go into the trust — and not be taxed.

    If you’re leaving an inheritance of under $20,000, you can set up a custodial account for your children through the Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA). As with a trust, you name a custodian for the money, who will manage it for your children until they come of age, according to your state’s definition of custodianship under UTMA.

    Baby & Pregnancy

    Working at Home With a Baby

    1 Comment 19 November 2009

    With a baby in tow, working at home takes on new meaning — and new challenges. Whether you’re resuming a free-lance career, starting a new one or telecommuting, you are in good company: According to Money magazine, about 13 million Americans are choosing to work from home. We talked to veteran work-at-home parents to find out their secrets for balancing work and family.

    How can I set a schedule that lets me work, but also leaves me flexibility for my family?

    Juggling career and family is challenging no matter where your office. But if you’re working at home, experiment to find what works best for you and your family. The big question: Will you accomplish more if you set uninterrupted weekly business hours, or can you manage a less predictable schedule?

    Writer and editor Annie Barrows, of Berkeley, Calif., falls into the first camp. “If you don’t make the time to work, no one will give it to you,” Barrows says. “An external structure with deadlines helps.” To this end, she works three days a week in her sacrosanct, no-children-allowed converted garage.

    But if you’re disciplined enough, you may succeed with a more flexible schedule. Chris Demarest, a children’s book author and illustrator, found that he enjoyed the flux of each day while he worked at home in New Hampshire. “I was not too strict about separating myself from the family,” he says. “I’d work for a certain amount of time each day, but I liked to play with the baby or tinker around the house.”

    One point veteran work-at-home parents agree on: Child care is a must. And whether you go for a strict work schedule or a more haphazard one, do plan some transition time: It’s hard to move effortlessly from diapers to deadlines and back again. Give yourself time to make phone calls, open mail, or simply collect your thoughts. Likewise, make sure to schedule family time into your workday, perhaps feeding your baby, joining your older kids for lunch, or taking a walk together. As your children grow, include them in your work life — many work-at-home parents relish that their children see their work as part of the rhythms of family life.

    I’m just starting a home-based job. Until I can afford hired help, how can I juggle child care, housework and my career?

    When it comes to your house, consider lowering your standards. If you can accept living with a certain degree of chaos, you’ll have more time for work and family. If relatives or friends ask, “What can I do to help?” tell them: Prepare a meal, clean house, do the laundry, watch the baby for a few hours. They’ll probably appreciate the opportunity to do something concrete for your family — and help you launch your new career.

    Meanwhile, get organized! Swap child care with other parents, and consider joining or starting a babysitting co-operative. Learn to work in the short blocks of time granted you while baby is playing in a swing, napping or sleeping at night.

    Most important, set realistic goals. You’ll need to ease into working under these circumstances. Don’t try to write a novel when you are most likely good for only a few paragraphs. Agree to make that presentation in three weeks, not one. Everyone will be better off.

    How do I work at home with a babysitter in the house?

    You may discover you simply can’t, in which case you’ll need to make off-site child-care arrangements — or establish a home office. But if you can work with your children nearby, you’ll definitely need to go into your office and close the door to accomplish anything. Once behind that door, some parents want to be disturbed only in case of an emergency. But others, like San Francisco-based writer Susan Davis, find that some interruptions alleviate worries or tension. “If the babysitter feels free to ask me questions or to tell me when it’s time to breastfeed, I can relax knowing the baby’s needs will be met,” Davis says.

    Whatever your style, resist the urge to minister to every cry. Find someone you trust and let her do her job. Take regular breaks to visit with or feed the baby. As long as you can get your work done, enjoy the proximity. This is why many people have chosen to work at home, remember?

    How do I deal with the inevitable interruptions from people who know I’m home?

    Discipline and communication are essential. Since therapist Christa Otter, of Montpelier, Vt., sees clients at her separate home office, she sets specific office hours. “Everyone, friends and family included, knows not to disturb me during those times,” she says. But if you’re in a profession with murkier boundaries, or you’ve set up shop on the dining-room table, you may have to work harder to stake out your territory. A separate business phone makes life much simpler; let the answering machine take care of your home line during work hours. If you use your home phone for work, ask non-business callers to ring you at a more convenient, specified time. If you’re unavailable, hang a friendly sign on your door, or ask your sitter to play sentry. Be unapologetically serious about your work. If you don’t take it seriously, neither will anyone else.

    How do I deal with the potential isolation of working alone at home and taking care of children, too?

    Chances are, you’ll find no shortage of human contact. But if your work doesn’t naturally involve other people, consider joining professional organizations, scheduling regular lunches with colleagues, participating in parent or play groups, and taking exercise or work-related classes.

    Many work-at-home parents find isolation isn’t the problem — it’s that they have no time alone. “Make time for yourself,” suggests Irene Facciolo, an architect in Vermont. “Between work and caring for your children, it is really easy to forget about yourself — yet it is so important to do something on your own.”

    It’s easy for work-at-home parents to become masters at scheduling it all in — work, family, household responsibilities — but be sure to pencil in time for yourself as well.

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