Archive for August 2017

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1 Small Hack For Smarter Smartphone Parenthood

It’s the last official week of summertime around here. My babies love school and are eager about the beginning; it’s me nursing an increasingly bigger pit in my stomach as summer wanes and September nears. While my boys grow up I feel like I see more clearly the ways summertime affords juicy glimpses into the innocence of childhood. This summer I watched these little boys stay in their jammies past noon and watched as they dabbled in stories and books, make believe, competition, mindless daydreaming, Lego-building, risk-taking, and an earnest growing concern about safety in the world. To me the collection of those interests feels so earnest and utterly serene. Summertime is just slower.

I crave the de-clutter of long days without so much chaos. Without the stresses that the school schedule ushers in, the summertime-alarm-clock-free space lends priority to an actual circadian rhythm. We eat better, the days are less driven by rule following. I think we might laugh more. Less time spent rushing and shuttling from one thing to the next and more time listening. A lot more time goofing off. I mean my 8 year-old ran into my room first thing this morning in a cape! What life (with children) is ultimately about.

As this summer, in particular, wraps up I’m also recognizing with increasing fortitude the peril we’re under because of technology in our lives.

Nothing new or profound but I really feel it right now, more than ever. My work over the past years with The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communication and Media has shaped the study on device-use as a station in my work, but it’s my role as a mother that screams out louder in me right now. We could really mess this up. Not our kids, per se, I just mean how we all experience this precious gift.

We spend a lot of time worrying about and tweaking our children’s media use. Yes, we can and should make use a media use plan to help guide how our children use devices (literally you can plug in a plan together here and print it out for the fridge) but at some point we have to think on how we grown-ups cherish our days, too. How technology will rob us of what we adore.

As the next decade unfolds, devices will only get better at grabbing ahold of us. We have to admit a frailty inherent in us; we need to practice being off our devices. Practice it, every day, like a craft. I think this is a new part of being human.

The piece in The Atlantic earlier this summer, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation, brought the threats of  iGen tech use into an even newer, national focus. The thesis, in case you’ve not yet read it, is that teens are unhappier than ever, the author argues, since the iPhone hit stores. Smartphones have changed how we all live and think and love and connect and teens have more anguish because of it. I know there is ongoing suffering from device-use. There is, of course, also a profundity of ways devices build convenience and safety and social justice and intimacy in our lives. But a couple recent experiences where my own son had to tug on my sleeve to pull me away from a device made me feel basically just horrifically horrible. I was as gone to my phone as you can imagine. And after a couple summertime device Mom-fails I’m happy to re-invent how I improve at this. My earnest distraction wed to the accelerating feeling of the dwindling sand-in-the-hourglass time with my boys (before they leave home) motivates. I want to use this smartphone smarter. Wouldn’t it feel awesome to be great at this?

So how about this tiny tweak…

One Hour In Airplane Mode Every Day. A Tiny Tweak

I spent last week with my phone in airplane mode all day. I checked in quickly here or there and for little squalls of media in the evening, but the bulk of the days were left untethered. It wasn’t a full digital sabbatical, which for me was practical and less distracting. Sure, I know some of you can be a hero parent and not touch your phone after 5pm. And maybe you’re already good at putting your devices away, as are your children. We do#devicefreedinner and my boys are limited with their media use, but I’m thinking about fully protecting random other hours, too. Practically speaking, I want to think on finding one hour, every single day, to put my phone in airplane mode. We can untether ourselves. Make a new habit. Stop the rush and make a beep or a call an impossible interruption. Just be around for the goofing off. Bring summer all the way into the depths of December, every single day. Practice the art of one hour offline and out of earshot daily. Join me?

Tips And Facts For Families On The Solar Eclipse

I know, everyone is writing about the eclipse. I’ve got just a few messages. One is, this is gonna be cool. Two, the caution messages are real. The cool part is because when our world goes a little dark mid-day next week it will be fairly startling. Even the animals are expected to change up how they behave. And the cautionary messages just make sense. Our eyes and our vision are clearly worth protecting ferociously. Damage from the eclipse can be permanent so taking a few steps to understand how and why just makes sense. And for framing this whole thing up in life? Thank goodness many of us have children in our midst. Their enthusiasm about how BIG this event is can help scale how exciting it is when the sun disappears in the middle of the day. Children harbor amazing perspective of what matters. Monday is a great day to stop reading the news and stare up into the sky (carefully). Thank goodness.

Quick Summary Of The Total Solar Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to at least a partial view of an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights (as I’m told) – a total solar eclipse, which has not happened in 99 years. This path, where the moon, the sun and the Earth all line up such that the moon completely blocks out the sun will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. The New York Times created the above video that captures the science and awe of this event. Even NASA created a website to provide a guide to viewers. Out West, people are talking of little else and Slate is reporting that Oregon is expecting 1 million tourists view the eclipse. People are changing up their weeks to view this. Two little girls from Seattle are getting real – they’re launching a weather balloon into space, in partnership with NASA, with live GPS tracking (and an Amelia Earhart LEGO) and some live video coverage links, too. I mean, it’s a big deal.

Can The Eclipse Hurt My Eyes?

Yes, the eclipse can hurt your eyes if you stare directly at the sun for any time. But you and your children can safely watch the eclipse if you follow a few recommendations. A long version of these recommendations are available at American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  1. No direct looking. A reminder to never look directly at the sun during the eclipse without appropriate eye protection. The total eclipse only happens for a couple minutes (for those in the path of totality) and the rest of us don’t have a single window of time on Monday where it’s safe to look at the sun directly, even when partially eclipsed.
  2. Regular sunglasses don’t count. Real solar viewers are thousands of times darker than regular sunglasses. Don’t think you can hack this with your old, dark sunglasses.
  3. Purchase eye protection or don’t look directly up at the sun. The bad news, if you’re a late buyer it might be too late to buy these glasses as USA Today reports that retailers across America are selling out at rapid pace. The other bad news is there have numerous media reports that some glasses are counterfeit and may not actually protect you. Here’s a list of glasses/filters from the American Astronomical Society with some vetted sellers/manufacturers that are thought to be more “reputable.”
  4. Do not look at a partially-eclipsed sun through an unfiltered camera, telescope, binoculars, or other optical device — in some cases this can magnify and potentiate the light and cause an even more extensive exposure and injury.
  5. Blindness? Some of the claims that looking quickly at the sun can cause blindness may be overstated but there’s no question that looking at the sun can quickly cause real and extensive damage to your retina (back of your eye). Staring directly at the sun causes a condition called solar retinopathy that occurs when bright light from the sun floods the retina on the back of the eye. Live Science explains, “The retina is home to the light-sensing cells that make vision possible. When they’re over-stimulated by sunlight, they release a flood of communication chemicals that can damage the retina. This damage is often painless, so people don’t realize what they’re doing to their vision.” Be careful.
  6. If you can’t find ways to get glasses or make a viewer yourself, consider watching a live stream of the actual eclipse. NASA will be streaming it live. You and your children can also get crafty and can make a PINHOLE CAMERA to view the eclipse from your backyard.

What If I Miss The Eclipse?

If you’ll be vacationing in Cuba next week, despair not. There will be solar eclipses visible from parts of the contiguous U.S. on Oct. 14, 2023, and April 8, 2024. The one in 2024 will be a total solar eclipse visible from Texas to Maine. Fair-ups for all you not in the path of totality or close to it this time.

What About Animals?

Animals may react to the eclipse and maybe our puppies will take note. “In total solar eclipses, there are observations of animals going to sleep,” Rick Schwartz, an animal behavior expert with the San Diego Zoo, told ABC News. “The animals take the visual cues of the light dimming, and the temperature cues. You hear the increase of bird calls and insects that you usually associate with nightfall. Farmers have said that the cows lay down on the field or the chickens go back into the coop.” I’m already imaging all the Instagram videos of the puppies…

Image c/o NPR

New Breast Pump Cleaning Guidelines From CDC

Every tool can carry risk when not used properly. The story about breast pumps and infection risk in the media recently is no exception. Attention all breast feeding & pumping mamas out there (and all the lovely people who support moms who pump milk): The Centers For Disease Control (CDC) has issued new guidelines for properly cleaning your breast pump & parts. The new recommendations come in the wake of a devastating story of a premature baby girl who showed signs of sepsis (bloodstream infection) at age 21 days due to an unusual bacterial infection. She developed spastic cerebral palsy, developmental delays and later passed away. This case is an outlier, for sure, but did prompt learning that the CDC felt the public should know.

After a full investigation, the CDC traced the infection source back to the breast pump and parts. The way the breast pump equipment was cared for may have allowed bacteria to grow. The CDC reported that the girl’s mother typically soaked the collection kit from her personal breast pump in soapy water in a wash basin for ≤5 hours without scrubbing or sanitizing. She then rinsed, air-dried, and stored the kit in a plastic zip-top bag until the next use. It’s possible how she cared for the pump allowed for bacteria to grow and be transferred to the baby. Because the baby was young and born prematurely, the baby was at greater risk for infection that most full-term older infants.

In response to the investigation, we reviewed existing resources for women about how to pump breast milk safely, but found little guidance that was detailed and based on the best available science,” Dr. Anna Bowen, a CDC medical officer, told Parents. “As a result, CDC developed its own guidance.”

New CDC Breast Pump Cleaning Guidelines:

  • Clean your pump parts after every use. Don’t skip a single feeding. I know it’s yet another step in the long process of breastfeeding and pumping, but it’s crucial. Annoying add but the recommendations are based in experts evaluating risks.
  • Wash your hands before touching your pump parts or pumped milk.
  • Key: keep a separate wash basin for the parts, the CDC doesn’t recommend you use the kitchen sink to clean pump supplies as the sink may house germs and bacteria from other food prep.
  • Have a dedicated cleaning brush for your pump and parts. Clean that brush every few days. Don’t re-use the sponge you use to scrub food off your plates and dishes.
  • Use running water and soap to clean breast pump parts that come in contact with breast milk.
  • Then let each piece and part air dry.
  • For extra cleanliness you can boil or steam the parts to sanitize in either a microwavable steamer or use the sanitize cycle in the dishwasher (HOT water). You can use the sanitizing bags that you use in the microwave or you can bring a pot of water to a boil and boil parts in the bubbling water for 5 minutes.

Bottom Line: this news isn’t meant to scare or drive moms away from breastfeeding and pumping. We know the many benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby (see below). This is just a reminder to be diligent when cleaning and sanitizing your breast pump.

Some Benefits of Breast Feeding For Baby

  • Lower SIDS risk in babies who are breastfed
  • Immune support that moms pass through breastmilk (no trivial thing!)– These free antibodies reduce infections for babies (ear infections, diarrhea)
  • Complete nutrition, no processed food! Yum.
  • Good bacteria — the passing along of the microbiome from mama to baby. So much to learn about this but we know the microbiome in breastfed babies is different than that of formula-fed babies. Time will tell how “protective” this really is. So I won’t promise it’s “healthier” but do know it’s different.
  • Potential allergy protection – some data suggest breast feeding can stave-off development of some severe allergies.

Benefits of Breast Feeding For Mom

  • Benefits for a more rapid recovery from delivery. Hello, helpful.
  • Reduced rates of breast and ovarian cancer in life overall.
  • Contraception support (don’t count on breastfeeding as a 100% contraception method!) and support in not having that next screaming baby faster than you want. However, can’t stress enough from my experience in medicine and life that you can never count on breastfeeding to prevent pregnancy.
  • 400-500 calories and a potentially speedier return to pre-pregnancy weight! I mean making milk for your baby all day is wondrous and burns off the equivalent of a 5-mile run. Nice.