Friday, January 2, 2015

Best Books of 2014... In my opinion

Happy new year! I'd like to start off the year by recapping a list of self-help books and memoirs that I found very readable this past year. Some of them are serious, some of them are funny. Note: this is only MY opinion, and in no particular order...

Self help

"Just Tell Me What to Say" by Betsy Brown Braun is a nice quick read on very common parenting concerns about discipline, friendship issues, sexuality, and conflict resolution. It gives readers a script for ways to navigate these difficult issues. It is geared towards those who have kids in the preschool through high school ages. This book would also be helpful for anyone in a profession that works with kids this age. One of the easier reads that tackles difficult parenting conversations.

"Change your Brain, Change your Body" by Daniel Amen, MD  This is not the first book I have read of this authors, nor will it be the last. What I love about his books is he is a advocate for people who choose treatments of all different modalities. He talks about Western medications, but also eastern integrative medicine, such as homeopathic treatments and supplements. He also emphasizes the importance of good old self care: sleep, diet, exercise. He also includes nifty brain scans that show the science behind his research, and how it literally can change the structure of your brain. He includes wonderful mental health information as well as other physical ailments.

"The Secret of the Shadow: The Power of Owning your Whole Story" by Debbie Ford This is not a new book, but one I finally just got around to reading this past year. I fell in love with one of Ford's previous books, and had to read this one as well. I like this one better. It takes the information from some of her other books and makes it more about using it to improve your current and future life. This book will help people who struggle with low self-worth and self-esteem. Through guided exercises, you will learn to like yourself better, and except that even if bad things have happened to you, you are still a great person.

"The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brene Brown This is another wonderful read about self-esteem. In a culture that values perfection, we need to learn how to handle the reality that we are not perfect. But how do we embrace that? This book walks you through Brown's ideas of how to do that in a simple straightforward way. If you would like to get a flavor of brown before buying, she also has a video on TED about shame and imperfection.


"Dad is Fat" by Jim Gaffigan Not only is Jim Gaffigan hilarious, but he is also the father of five very young children. This memoir is filled with short essays about his experience as a dad and son are laugh out loud funny. This would make a wonderful gift, not only for dads in your life, but for anybody who appreciates parenting humor.

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua A controversial read, I really liked that the tone of this book was not about "this is how you should parent" but about how she did follow the cultural mores of her family's parenting style, and how it went wrong in some ways. She also shares the challenges of having a blended cultural marriage, and how they made that work. It is a good breed that makes you think about your own parenting style and about how the American culture can be a challenge for people living here from other cultures.

"How Starbucks Saved My Life" by Michael Gates Gill Okay, I'll admit it: the reason I picked up this book was all about being addicted to Starbucks coffee. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this memoir written by a man who basically loses everything. He was raised in a wealthy family, and had a very wealthy lifestyle until the market crashed. I won't give anything away, however I will say that what I loved about this memoir is that it shows that people can be happy without all of the material things that are culture tells us we "need". He makes a very difficult new start and is inspirational. PS. It's also not a very long book, so good for even those who do not like to read.

Motherhood Comes Naturally, and Other Vicious Lies" Jill Smokler  As someone who works with postpartum moms, I am always looking for books that talk about motherhood in a realistic way. Smokler, founder of the blog Scary Mommy published this book a very funny essays about the realities of motherhood. If you are looking for a gift for a new mom, or you are a new mom yourself, pick it up on a bad day and just read one essay. It's a great reminder that motherhood does not come naturally.

Happy reading! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The need for attachment

Science is showing that the need for attachment begins even before birth. The in utero environment can impact a fetus's developing brain. After they enter the world, you attach to your baby by making eye contact, holding, cuddling, cooing, feeding and other ways of otherwise nurturing and letting your baby know you are there for them.

Once the "baby stage" ends, they enter toddlerhood. The often tumultuous, emotional time where children want to be both "big kids" and babies all at the same time. This can be frustrating for both parents and children, who do not understand the process that kids are going through developmentally. Watch the video below, which does a much better job than I can of demonstrating the attachment needs of toddlers:

As anyone who has survived the twos, threes and fours of early childhood, it is a no-brainer how challenging and tiring it can be at times for your child to need so much of your energy. It can be overwhelming some days, and not make sense on others. It can feel like a breath of fresh air for kids to become school-aged, and not need those frequent attention and check-ins. Or so it seems...

I have a nine year old daughter who plays hockey. Last weekend, at her hockey game, I had a light bulb moment where I was reminded that this need for safety and security does not end after toddlerhood. My daughter plays goalie- which is a really tough position to watch your child play, BTW- and I noticed that after someone scored on her, she would look up to the stands where we were sitting, needing to check in and make eye contact. I would give her some kind of sign to let her know "It's OK! Keep going!" and she would turn back to the game. I then observed her block a puck, and I was hoping she would look up to me with the excitement I knew she was feeling. But she didn't. I noticed this pattern throughout the game- check in if a goal went in, but stay focused on the game if it didn't. And it occurred to me that she was checking in, just like in the video, seeking reassurance ONLY when she was disappointed, worried, in need of reassurance. A sign of her secure attachment was not seeking out our connection when she was successful- likely because she knows we are proud of her.

As kids get older and become adults, they will continue to search for safety and security. The need to attach to loved ones, to find that secure base, never ends. It just changes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Can I take it or not?

There've been a lot of articles in the media recently about whether it is safer not to take medication during pregnancy or while breast-feeding. It can be very confusing and scary to those reading to know what the "right" thing is to do. You may hear different information from your OB/GYN, your psychiatrist and the pharmacist. And then, when you finally do get the nerve to decide to take the medication, you read something different. I have had some clients who finally make a decision to try a medication, only to have it filled and be told by their pharmacist that they "can't" take that medication while nursing.

Taking medication is a very serious step. In some cases, medication may not be warranted. However, especially when there is severe depression, anxiety, bipolar, or psychosis, medication may not be a choice, but rather a necessary decision in order to be out of, or prevent, a crisis.

The good news is that there are credible resources that you can look to for information, so that you can make the most informed decision. The other good news is that it does not mean that you cannot breast-feed or that you will (for sure) cause damage to your baby by taking certain medications. The harder news is that information is not always black and white. There may be risk involved. There may be a time where you are not 100% sure, but it is clear that the benefits will outweigh the risks. Here are some resources where you can find research-based information:

http://www.mothertobaby.orga service of the non-profit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists, is dedicated to providing evidence-based information to mothers, health care professionals, and the general public about medications and other exposures during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. (Copied from their website). This website has a ton of information, as well as toll-free numbers to call for more support.

http://www.infantrisk.comBy educating healthcare professionals and the general public alike, we aim to reduce the number of birth defects as well as create healthy breastfeeding relationships. This website provides great information, and also has forums online for questions. this website has a page for both parents and providers. It also has several various toll-free helplines not only about medications but also about things like morning sickness and substance abuse. I really really really like LactMed. However, the information (A medication database) can tend to be more scientific, so if that makes your brain feels like mush, then don't use this website. It does have an app that you can also download onto your smart phone or tablet, so that may come in handy.

The decision to take medication during pregnancy or while breast-feeding can be very daunting. Knowledge is power. If you must read other information aside from what your doctors provide to you, make sure that it is coming from a reputable source. All of the above, in my opinion, fit that bill.