“Itchy Spots” (or Eczema, as it is Called Elsewhere)

Four years ago, the extent of my knowledge regarding eczema was its existence as some kind of skin rash. Having worked with a person who had psoriasis, I somewhat (incorrectly) equated the two and felt bad for people who dealt with them but didn’t give them much thought myself. So, when my son had a circular patch of red, bumpy skin on his arm, I never considered eczema but thought it was ringworm. Daycare thought the same and the nurse at my son’s clinic confirmed the suspicion and said to use Lotrimin on the area. A few days of Lotrimin, however, brought about no change and my mother, a RN, was visiting, so I asked her opinion. She thought it looked like “contact eczema” and suggested we change laundry detergents.

This change seemed to do the trick at first, but it wasn’t long before what came to be called “itchy spots” in our house started popping up all over my son’s arms and legs and occasionally his back and stomach. All of these spots were circular in nature (similar to ringworm), not like the eczema photos I’d seen on posters in the doctor’s office, and daycare was concerned that this was some type of fungal infection and therefore contagious. So I did some research and saw a pediatrician and it turned out eczema appears in more than one form and the form my son had was Nummular Dermatitis or Nummular Eczema which is often misdiagnosed initially as ring-worm due to its circular appearance. So, no ringworm (phew), but still the unpleasant “itchy spots” remained. Typical eczema remedies – cortisone on the “itchy spots” when they were red and Aveeno when they were not, no use of soap (just Aveeno bath wash), free & clear laundry detergents, and no bubble bath became the routine at our house. Still, for a long time my son would go through periods where he had these horrible “itchy spots” that he would often pick at and worsen. The crease on the inside of his elbow was particularly bad and I had difficulty getting the eczema to clear from that area. Of course, this is also an easily accessible spot to itch, so I took to covering it with Band-aids to keep my son from picking at it.

ScratchingIn the meantime, I kept researching and came across a link between eczema and milk protein allergy. I spoke with the pediatrician about the possible connection between that two, but was told that it was unlikely and there was no proof of a connection (the same thing I was told about my son’s reflux and a possible milk allergy) and so, we just continued our “itchy spot” routine. It wasn’t until this year, as my son’s “itchy spots,” all-but disappeared and then were gone, that my daughter (who is eczema free) was diagnosed with a milk protein allergy. When we saw the specialist regarding this, the conversation with him resulted in the following conclusions:

1. According to the specialist, it was surprising that my daughter did not have eczema given the obvious milk protein allergy.

2. Milk protein allergies are often the cause of night-waking (something my son has always struggled with).

3. My son likely had a milk protein allergy which caused or at least aggravated his reflux and eczema and was no longer struggling with it because he had outgrown the allergy (as most children do by the time they are six) or reduced his milk intake to a level where it was not affecting him.

Having one of those, “if I had only known then” moments, I wished I had just taken my son off dairy a few years ago to see what happened despite the pediatrician’s assurance that a milk allergy was not likely. It certainly would’ve been nice to ascertain a connection between the two four years ago, but hindsight is always 20/20. Still, I would be curious to know how many out there have found an obvious connection between their child’s eczema and a food or other allergy. I also encourage any of you dealing with eczema to explore the possibility of it being caused from a food allergy – and follow your instinct even if your doctor says there is little chance…see a specialist or try eliminating dairy. It might be worth it.


About the Blogger:

Hi! My name is Shawna. I am a married mother to two adorable children and love being a mom. My children throw me unexpected surprises more often than I can count, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. Thanks for reading!

Cloth Diapering in a Modern World

When I had my son, I was not living in a modern world. I assumed cloth diapers were rags and pins, and it seemed like a whole lot of work. At the time I had no internet, and resources in the community were limited (they have since grown).  We got the internet when my son was 2 months old. I started researching cloth diapers, and by the time he was 6 months old I was part time cloth diapering.

I was so completely overwhelmed with all the choices and I had no idea where to start. Cloth diapering to start is a bit expensive, but over time you save a ton of money.  My first assumptions about cloth diapering were that it would be a lot of hard work, and not worth saving the money. I was wrong. Cloth diapers are cute and they make ones you treat just like disposables they just go into the diaper pail and washer instead of the trash.  Once you find a good wash routine, cloth diapering is simple to do.

I prefer to use diaper covers, and flats folded inside of them. They dry quicker, and just work well for us. However, I do have all in one diapers too since those are more dad friendly. Getting dad on the cloth diaper bandwagon was a chore when I had my son. I went about it differently this time. Instead of trying to convince him how great cloth was, all I did was make sure that I changed the baby for two weeks. I didn’t make a fuss of it, I just used cloth diapers.  Living paycheck to paycheck, during the second week my boyfriend couldn’t figure out how he had an extra $20 in the budget. Ever since then he has been hooked.  At first he’d only use the AIO’s , but he’s starting to get the prefolds and flats down.

I am refusing to give opinions on brand of cloth diapers, detergents, and wash routines, because it is truly something you have to find out for yourself. When my son was in cloth diapers, I swore by two brands. They worked, and worked well. I never had any problems with them. When my daughter was born I figured I already knew what I liked, so I’ll stick with it. Wrong! It was a disaster. They didn’t fit her right no matter what I did, and they leaked all the time. She is just over one year old now, and I’ve finally found diapers that I like, and work well.

My advice to people going into cloth is research. Talk to people, and be ready for a lot of work in the beginning. It took me over a month to get a wash routine down that works with my front loader washer, and keeps the ammonia smell away. If you don’t have a large chunk of change to start up, check consignment stores. When I started with my son and daughter I went to a few consignment stores, and shopped craigslist for very little money. It’s a great way to get a feel for what’s out there.  Keep an eye out online at the baby stores. If you need to buy baby equipment check to see if the stores are having any deals. When I bought my front pack, every order over a certain amount of money came with a free one size diaper.  If you have a local baby store, check to see if they have cloth diaper classes. I attended one and it was great to hear other people’s tricks and tips about cloth diapering, and having a strong support system.

About the Blogger:

I’m Renea P. I’m a stay at home mommy to a one year old girl and three year old boy. I love spending time with my family, couponing, crafting, and doing fun activities with my kids.

Potty Training — What Worked For Me

When asked about potty training, I feel I should groan, sigh, and say, “Aww, potty-training,” as I have heard many do; but my experience so far does not warrant such a reaction. I realized when I started the process that, as with much of parenting choices, the method to use depends on the child/parent and what works for them. My plan was devised by taking snippets of the advice I’d been given, considering that whatever method we chose would have to work at daycare too, and putting it all together. Daycare had already begun to take my son (at two years old) to the bathroom every two hours to “try,” so, I took that idea and an observation that, in a friend’s experience, Pull-ups only delay the process, and formulated my plan. I waited until Thanksgiving break, stocked up on “big boy underwear” for daytime and Pull-ups for night, and bought some mini-M&Ms. I chose a stool and a toilet-seat insert instead of a potty chair because my son was tall for his age and this was actually easier for him (and less mess for me). We started sitting on the toilet right after waking up and then setting a timer for one hour later to try again. Each time he would go potty, he got two mini-M&Ms and the timer was set for one hour. If he did not go, he got a “good try” and the timer was set for 20 minutes. After the third time the timer went off, he had the routine down and even stopped in the middle of playing with Grandma to announce, “Oop, time for me to go potty.”

I was warned that often children catch on to peeing fairly quickly but take longer to learn to go “stinky” and, as such, I may want to rethink the straight-to-underwear plan. However, this was not the case for my son. I can still clearly see the two times that he went “stinky” in his underwear. In both cases, it was clear from the bulging underwear what had happened and, in both cases, he was immediately appalled. I know that this is one argument for Pull-ups – so that accidents are not upsetting to the child – and I can see the validity of that argument if a child continues to have accidents regularly. But for my son, it was exactly the getting upset over accidents that worked for him – he never had a third one. By the time he went to daycare five days after we had started, he was going “stinky” in the toilet every time, and by the end of week one, the timer was gone. Over the course of the first month, the wet accidents got fewer and fewer and by the time the third month past, they were all but non-existent. Seriously, quite easy. Of course, there was some patience required and I at first worried that giving M&Ms would turn into an expectation I would have to fight to break, but the concern was  invalid and after the first couple weeks, my son forgot about the M&Ms completely. We continued to use Pull-ups at night for about six months (until he consistently woke up dry), but I could not have been happier with how this process went for us. In fact, the only thing that didn’t work out was that the word “potty” – a word my husband and I abhorred and insisted we would never use – permanently made its way into my vocabulary and even that of my husbands (I still secretly smirk when one of us says “Do you need to go potty?” because we were once so adamant about never using that word).

I do admit that we probably got lucky in potty-training being so smooth a process, but I certainly won’t complain about that. Now, I’m potty-training number 2. She is a little peanut, so the toilet seat insert won’t work for her and I invested in a potty chair instead. Also, she could care less about the timer at the moment, but she is “trying” at daycare and occasionally at home, so soon I need to start encouraging her a little more – this time I might have that sighing and groaning experience others have had, but, of course, I’m hoping I do not.

About the Blogger: 

Hi! I’m Shawna. I am a married, working mom of two — one boy, one girl, who I love more than I could have every imagined. Parenting has not always been easy for me and my children throw plenty of unexpected surprises, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

The NICU Journey

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a nursery within a hospital that specializes in caring for sick and preterm newborns. Most babies who spend the longest times in the NICU are born too early and for most families, like mine, this will be a sudden and unexpected experience. The days, weeks, and months to follow are emotionally draining. Families must endure waves of emotional highs and lows as their newborn goes through “good days” and “bad days”. Coping with these triumphs and setbacks can be difficult, but the NICU journey is an opportunity for immense bonding with your newborn. Here, I will share some tips to hopefully help someone get through this time.

  • The most important thing for you, as a mother, is to take care of yourself; physically and mentally. You cannot help your baby if you are not well.
    • Follow your provider’s orders for after-delivery care, especially if you had a cesarean. Do not drive, climb stairs, or carry heavy bags. You risk re-opening the incision.
    • Set a routine and stick to it. Include your meals, adequate time for sleep, and general hygiene in your schedule. This will help you rebuild your strength and maintain your physical and mental health. Also, set reminders to take your medications, if any.
    • Talk to someone about your emotions. A professional can help you understand your feelings (and once I was comfortable enough to talk with the nurses and social workers, I learned that most families of NICU babies deal with the same feelings of shock, helplessness, anger, guilt, and fear that I was experiencing). Talk to other families in the NICU, or join online forums or support groups to share stories. These “strangers” can be most comforting to you.
  • While you remain a patient in the hospital, you may want to request a private room. You may find it difficult to be around mothers with healthy newborns.
  • Get to know the staff and your baby’s caretakers, and make an effort to develop a rapport with them. There will be nurses, doctors, specialists, surgeons, social workers, lactation consultants, and more. Ask questions about the equipment, your baby’s condition, and procedures. These people are there to help. Become informed.
  • You are a crucial member in the team of providers for you baby’s care. Be involved. You will have almost 24-hour access to the nursery. You can also call at any time you desire. Once your baby is stable enough, you will be able to hold, bathe, feed, change, and dress him. You can coordinate these tasks with your baby’s nurse. Communicate your schedule to them, however, participation will all be based on your baby’s response and tolerance at the time, so be prepared for plans to change. I am a very reserved person, so I initially took a back-seat approach here. I felt uncomfortable in the beginning…like a stranger or just a visitor. I was not sure of what was expected of me or what was allowed of me. I was nervous to even put a blanket or cap back on my daughter if she wiggled out of it. Once I developed that rapport with the nurses, I felt more comfortable and was able to appropriately participate in her care.
  • Keep a calendar of dates and/or a journal. Record information on your baby’s health, progress, and treatments, special moments/events, and difficult times. In the future, you will want to remember all of the moments during this special time. I carried a notebook with me everywhere during the 44 days my daughter was in the NICU. No matter where I was, when I received information, I recorded it. My husband was not always with me, so rather than letting my stressed mind fail me, I could turn to my notebook and give him a complete run-down on our daughter’s day. A journal can also be a place for you to express your feelings to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Take advantage of Kangaroo Care (skin-to-skin contact). This method of contact has been proven beneficial to parents and newborns. It has an overwhelming calming effect and is the ultimate bonding experience between the mother/father and baby. It can help alleviate symptoms of mood disorders. The newborn’s growth rate can increase, overall health has been seen to improve, and the baby is able to regulate their heart rate, breathing, and maintain a proper body temperature.
  • It is OK to not be at your baby’s crib-side 24-hours a day (as long as your schedule is communicated to the nurse). I struggled with this. Even when my daughter was in stable condition, I did not want to leave her side (I felt like I was abandoning her). I wanted to spend every waking minute with her. However, I did have another child at home that needed me as well. At our hospital, siblings (children) were allowed to visit once per week, between certain hours, so on that day every week, my husband and I gave our time and attention to our older daughter. We visited the baby as a family, and spent the rest of the day doing something special with her.
  • Know that only your baby can determine when he will be going home. The doctors and nurses cannot give you a date or time. More than likely, you will be told only hours before discharge. Rather than asking the doctor, “When can he come home?”, ask, “What are the tasks he needs to achieve before he can come home?” Expect your baby to be in the hospital until his actual due date, at least. My daughter was born 9 weeks early, so we planned on her being in the hospital for 9 weeks.

Our NICU journey was one of the most trying times in our lives. My daughter and this experience has changed my life forever. Through this journey, miracles were witnessed, faith was restored, and doors were opened. Her fight has been such an inspiration to me. Due to complications with pre-eclampsia, my daughter was born at 31 weeks gestation. She weighed 3 pounds, 12.8 ounces, and was 17.5 inches in length. We were able to bring her home on April 15, 2009, when she was 44 days old. She is now a beautiful, healthy, 2 1/2 year-old, with the same strong will she was born with. We are so very blessed.

About the Blogger:

Hi! My name is Tanya. I am a stay at home mom and a full time nursing student from South Jersey. I am married and have been blessed with 2 beautiful and healthy little girls, aged 2 years and 7 years. I love gardening, baking, crafting, and a good belly laugh!

Testing the Waters

PhotobucketWhen I was little, my brothers and I would spend every day swimming at a neighborhood park. It was a lake, and it was FREEZING, but we always had a ton of fun in our inner-tubes & jumping from the high-dive. My mom made sure we knew how to swim well, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that not all kids swam like we did.

My mom was a certified lifeguard for over 10 years. Over the years I have heard her tell countless stories of the horrors that can happen at a pool when no one is watching, or even when they think they are watching. I won’t go into the details but a lot of them involve moms, just like you and me, who are talking with friends and not necessarily keeping their eyes on their children. In fact, a couple of close friends of mine have had a couple of similar swimming scares as well. 

What can we do? My mom believed the best thing she could do for us to be safe was teach us to swim at an early age. My brothers Photobucketand I would take swimming lessons every day, all summer long, every year. I didn’t know that it wasn’t typical for kids my age, and it didn’t really cross my mind until I got married (one of many other previously undiscovered differences between my husband’s upbringing and mine).

We started our oldest son in lessons when he was 3. Our goal was to get him used to the water since he was a sensitive child, and hadn’t yet grown into the coordination he needed to truly swim. At age 4 he started taking lessons more regularly, could float by himself, and glide underwater. At age 5, he took off! He started swimming by himself, and we kept him in lessons as much as we could. Now at age 7, I would still never leave him unattended, but he has the basic skills down. 

PhotobucketWith both my children, it just CLICKED. Once they realized they could actually SEE things under the water with their cool goggles, they were hooked. It was getting them to that step. Then they spent half their lessons scoping out the underwater view and sneaking up on their classmates!  Learning to swim is a necessity in my home. It may be different in other homes, and that’s okay.

For me, I feel much better knowing my kids have been taught water safety in a controlled environment. They know not to go in without an adult. They know what to do if someone falls in the water. They know what it feels like to wear a life jacket. The more I can prepare them the better off they will be and I can’t think of a better way to prepare them than by giving them the opportunity to swim at an early age, in a safe environment, as often as possible (and it’s amazing what you can teach in a bathtub).

I am so grateful to my mom for the countless hours she spent with us swimming at the park (amongst a million other things my mom did for us) and I can only hope I am being a pinch of the mother she was to me, for my children. I am grateful my children have had the chance to get to know her, swim with her, and laugh & love her.

About the Blogger:

My name is Alee, and I am a stay-at-home mom to three kids. I love to make crafts, scrapbook, and help out at my kids school.