All posts by Valerie Reiss

About Valerie Reiss

Valerie Reiss is the Managing Editor of Mom365.

Young woman doing yoga twisting mat indoors near window

3 Ways to Start Your Day with Easy Yoga

Forget coffee. (Or at least save it for later.) One of the best ways to start the morning is by climbing out of bed and into your body.

For me, that means rolling out my yoga mat and doing a few simple things to start the day well. But these three practices require no mat and no prior yoga experience—just a willingness to feel a little better in the morning. (Check with your doc, of course, but you may be able to do all of these with a decent amount of ease. )

1) Alternate Nostril Breathing

Before even getting out of bed, I recommend this gentle breathing exercise. You can also do it pretty much anywhere—on the toilet, in the shower, in the passenger seat of the car.

  1. Make a loose fist with your right hand, thumb and ring finger out.
  2. Gently press your thumb on the crease in your right nostril, essentially closing it.
  3. Inhale through the left nostril.
  4. Shift so the ring finger covers the left nostril.
  5. Exhale through the right nostril.
  6. Inhale through the right nostril.
  7. Close the right nostril and exhale through the left.
  8. Inhale through the left, close off the left, and exhale through the right. Close and inhale through the left, etc.
  9. Keep going for a minute or two, or up to five minutes. Close your eyes and relax your shoulders a bit—this should be a slow, steady breath, with no extra tension being held in the body.

The yogis say this breath calms the nervous system and balances the two hemispheres of the brain. I say it’s an instant chill-out that feels good and is a delicious way to start the day.

Here’s a video of me demonstrating:

2) Cat/Cow Pose

You don’t need much space for this, and the only prop is some padding under your knees if you’re on a hard floor—just fold a towel or a blanket.

  1. Get on all fours, and see that your thighs are parallel to one another, and that your hips are directly over your knees.
  2. Now see that your hands are spread out and your arms are aligned with your shoulders.
  3. Take a slow breath in.
  4. For “Cat,” exhale while raising the center of your upper back toward the ceiling (think of one of those cartoon Halloween cats), while releasing your neck and dropping your head toward (not on) the floor.
  5. Then, as you inhale, slowly shift into “Cow” by raising your tailbone and the center of your chest—you’ll be creating a kind of sway-backed horse look.
  6. Be aware that your neck stays gently curved, with no crook.
  7. Shift back into Cat, exhaling and dropping your head. Imagine you’re being pulled from above by a clear thread that grows from behind your heart.
  8. Shift back into Cow, reaching the tail and chest up.
  9. Go back and forth between the two, and see that you’re breathing. Inhale on Cow; exhale on Cat. Do five rounds of each—more if inspired.

This is a lovely, gentle way to awaken the spine and get synovial fluid moving and lubricating your joints. It may surprise you how much this gentle action can make a difference in how you feel.

3) Empty Coatsleeves Exercise

This is not an official yoga pose, but my beloved teacher at Yoga Teacher Training showed me this, and I love it.

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart, knees softly, ever so slightly bent.
  2. Extend your arms out to the sides and make sure you have plenty of room in all directions.
  3. Now start slowly rotating your torso (like you might if you were doing the Twist—Google it) so that your arms swing like a helicopter propeller. At the end of each swing, they may wrap around your body a little. Let them—bonus massage.
  4. Keep turning and swinging those arms. You can start lifing up your heels a little bit to get your whole body into it. Chances are you kids will be happy to join you in this.
  5. Do it for up to five minutes, but even one minute can help.

This wakes up the whole body, clearing the cobwebs, quite literally, from your muscles. It helps lubricate the spine, free up the fascia—the layer of connective tissue just over your muscle and under your skin. Plus, you’ll be hard-pressed not to smile—perhaps the best boost of all.

Here’s a video of me demonstrating:

Pair Of Baby Sock With Dollar Hanging On Rope Using Wooden Clip

The Cost of Raising a Child in the USA

You’ve heard it before: “Kids are expensive.” But now a new report has calculated approximately HOW expensive: $245,340, to be exact. Yep, that’s what the USDA’s Expenditures on Children and Families study says it will cost today’s parents to raise a baby who was born last year, in 2013, to the age of 18.


Precisely how much it’ll cost you varies by region. So say, if you’re in the urban South, a little one will run ya just about $231K and if you live in a rural area, you’ll get by on a lean $193K-ish. The priciest, of course, is where I live, in the urban Northeast, where it’s $282K-ish.

The top expenses in the report are housing, food, and child care and education. Even adjusted for inflation that’s a lot higher than it was in 1960, with the biggest chunk being a MUCH higher child care expense.

This can make a New York City mama with a 2013 baby sigh. Though it’s not shocking, of course–it’s already been incredibly pricey, starting with the little dude’s birth, which we’re still paying off even though we have good insurance (and the report doesn’t even cover pregnancy!). And looking at our specific income bracket, it’s clearly going to cost even more than average. Every time I add something “essential” to my cart on Amazon (must. have. PRIME.), those dollar signs ratchet a little higher. Though my kid isn’t even 10 months, it feels like I’ve already spent about $200K in diapers, wipes, teething-supportive devices (mesh bags, silicone nubby things, freezable nubbie things, infant ibuprofen), bottles, nipples, clothing (the disadvantage of having a baby late in life is that most of the hand-me-downs have already been handed down), bath toys, purée in squeezy things, and more. This is all a privilege, I realize, one I actually enjoy. I’m having one kid and he’s going to have many chew toy options, dammit!

But the larger, actual reality is scary and sad. As a nation we simply don’t prioritize kids and families. We’re the only developed nation that doesn’t have paid maternity leave or universally subsidized daycare. Homelessness among families with kids is at a high. Public education is often under-funded and under attack. We’re a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps nation, but kids don’t have bootstraps. They have parents working three jobs. Employers who try to avoid hiring people with kids. Employers firing pregnant workers. And a sizable voter faction that cries “Socialism!” every time concerned citizens and politicians move to fix any of this.

Honestly, I don’t know what to do about this, except buy another crinkly book and pray that inflation doesn’t make this number any higher by the time my 2013 guy hits school age.

What do you make of this report? Does it freak you out, or is about what you’d expect?

royal baby girl

The Name of the Royal Baby Girl Is…

Congrats to the royal family! As you no doubt know, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s little princess was born Saturday at 8:34am, weighing 8 lbs, 3 oz.

 The bookies had bets going on Alice, Olivia, and Charlotte for the name of the royal baby girl—some people won big: the name they announced this morning is Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. The cutie fourth in line for the throne will be known as “Her Royal Highness Princess Charlotte of Cambridge.”

Let’s take a closer look at the name, shall we?

There’s Charlotte, which, according to the Mom365 baby names database, is “A variation of the English boy’s name Charles, meaning ‘free man.'”

So she’s a “free woman,” named for Grandpa Charles. (Also Kate’s of a generation that read Charlotte’s Web—I’d like to think there’s a tiny nod to a kind-hearted spider in there.)

Elizabeth is clearly named for Queen Elizabeth II, a.k.a., Great Grandma. It’s a Hebrew-derived name that means “God is my oath” or “God is perfection.” I’m guessing this made the Queen pretty thrilled.

And, finally, her poignant third name, Diana, is of course for the grandma she’ll never meet, Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana means “‘light,” “daylight,” and “deity” and derives from the Roman goddess Diana who powerfully ruled the forests, hunting, childbirth, and the moon. That’s the bad-ass name of the bunch, a power she’ll need for the intense scrutiny of the life before her.

All classic, of course, and all strong and beautiful names. Blessings to the family. And welcome, Charlotte!

What do you think of the royal baby name choices?

baby blue eye

Aww! Justin Timberlake’s Baby’s First Photo

The TimberBiels (that would be Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel) are thankfully too cool for the old-school People magazine first baby photo shoot. Nor are they going to wait for the stalkerazzi to get the first shots. Nope, like the smart celebuparents before them, they’ve Instagrammed Silas Randall Timberlake’s first public pic. And it’s a doozy of cuteness, right? Is that a wink?? Welcome to the world, Silas! Happy one-week on Earth! And congrats, mama and papa. Welcome to the adventure.

justin timberlake baby pic




twin newborns in a bath video

Sweetest Newborn Twins in a Bath Video

The headline that got me clicking over to this was “Newborn Twins Don’t Realize They’re Born Yet….” It’s an achingly tender video of newborn twins being bathed in a method called Thalasso Baby Bath, created by maternity nurse Sonia Rochel in Paris, France. Once the water starts running over their heads, they start behaving like they’re back in the womb. In addition to being adorable, it looks like it feels really, really good. And watching these two hug each other throughout reminds me of that otters holding hands video from a few years back.

Rochel is super clear that you’re not to try this at home! Though she talks more about her method for bathing newborns in a regular, soothing way here. It’s a reminder that babies can really love a deliciously warm bath. And come to think of it–mamas too!  Slip in one if you can.

Meantime, enjoy the relaxing sweetness!

baby in snow

Snow Days, Babies, and Jobs—Oh My!

Last winter my baby was brand-new. I was on maternity leave and the weather in New york City wasn’t so bad. This winter my babe is bigger, louder, and mobiler and I’m working almost full-time, from my new home in extra-wintry Western Massachusetts. Which is to say—how the heck have working-outside-the-home moms managed snow days all these decades?

Like so many things with parenthood, I never really thought about it. But now, I realize—lots of snow = no childcare = how on goddess’s great snowy earth will I get any work done?

We do a mix of nanny and daycare and when it snows like it is right now—in a snowglobe-like, non-stop whirl that hushes the whole city—neither are available. The goodish news for me is that my husband’s job relies on him being able to go out for sales calls, which he can’t do in the crazy snow. But the days when he has had sales phone calls and I’ve had work, it’s been an eight-hour game of pass-the-kid.

It works, kinda, but I’m not sure how we’re going to get through another couple months of this with sanity and jobs intact!

I know I’m not alone here—how does your family play the snow-day game? And who’s winning? You or the white stuff?

Weird Winter Birth News

So far, 2014 has been an eventful year for births. In just the last couple of weeks we’ve seen everything from a baby born in a sub-zero driveway to identical triplets to a mom who gave birth while in a coma.

• Though Darshay Jones of Birmingham, Alabama wasn’t due to give birth until Valentine’s Day, nature had other plans. But when Jones realized the baby was coming NOW–more than two weeks ahead of schedule–nature was also working on a winter storm that caused the ambulance to crash on its way to her home. It was then up to Jones, her boyfriend, and the level-headed guidance of a 911 dispatcher to bring a baby girl into the world. Though the operator had never talked a woman through labor before, it went smoothly; mom and her unintentionally home-birthed baby girl are doing just fine. And the baby’s name? Wynter, of course.

• Another weather-influenced birth, in Gray, Maine, saw a baby arrive just as her parents were packing up to head to the hospital in 10-degree below temps. According to an AP story, the woman delivered her healthy, 7-pound, 5-ounce girl on the second contraction, leaning on the car’s seat. “Her husband, who was inside the house getting a bag to take to the hospital, came out to hear a baby crying.” Woah! Mom and baby are doing well–and have an awesome story to tell.

• In get-your-flu-shot news, a 19-year-old woman, Abigail Unruh, was seven months pregnant when she collapsed from symptoms related to H1N1. When she arrived at the hospital, doctors put her into a coma to save her life. Two days later, she went into labor–naturally. Docs didn’t think she would survive a C-section, so they went with it and her healthy baby boy made his way into the world at 7 pounds. Mom did not awaken until two weeks later but is now recovering nicely and getting to know her sweet boy.

• Less than a week ago, a pair of Seattle parents really got into the Superbowl spirit by naming their child, wait for it… Cydnee Leigh 12th Mann–after the “boisterous” cheering section for the Seattle Seahawks football team. Go, Seahawks! And go, girl with a name to live down on playgrounds forever more! Hopefully the name gives her the courage to do just that.

• One mom in California gave birth to identical triplets–which are apparently incredibly rare, occurring in one in every million or so pregnancies. They came to be without any fertility treatments and were born six weeks early. One boy had to have intestinal surgery at birth, but all are doing well now.

• In other adorable triplet news, a mama lion at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. gave birth last week to three sweet cubs, one of whom died at birth. The other two, though, are thriving and all will be back in the public view this spring. Meow!

Any amazing birth stories to share? Shout ’em out in the comments below!


A Labor List

I’m signing off on this here pregnancy blog to go on maternity leave, rest a bit, and have this hiccuping, kicking (we like to say “kickuping”) baby. I’m anxious and afraid of course—large head, small exit; impending motherhood; etc.—but there are some things anchoring me to peace and calm. I know I’ll need to tap that chill zone while this baby meets the world, especially if I have the unmedicated birth I’d like.

Things/Skillz/Etc. I’m Bringing to Labor to Help Birth Be As Smooth and Peaceful As Possible

1)   A Doula. I feel so grateful to have someone who will be with me start to finish who’s done this LOTS of times. Who can read the signals, and support me with positions, reminders, massage, running interference with, well, interferences, and more.

2)   My Spirit Animal. Er, yes, really. I had two cool Skype sessions with a birth coach, and as homework she had me draw a picture of my most empowered birth scenario. I drew a crayon lion/woman who looked strong and fierce and potent and loving and kind. I plan to call on her lionessy power when things get rough.

3)   Frozen Grapes. I’ve heard these are awesome snacks for early labor. And it looks like I’ll need more grapes because they also prove to be great pre-pre-early labor snacks. Oops.

4)   My Husband. He’s not un-freaked out, but I know he’ll be an un-squeamish trouper and I’m so glad/excited/relieved to have someone so willing and present and loving to go through this tunnel to parenthood with me. I also know he won’t let anyone mess with me, should issues arise, and that’s a beautiful thing too.

5)   Labor Beads. I asked everyone attending my baby shower to bring a bead for me to string on a sacred labor necklace. The idea is that each bead has meaning and a story that will accompany me and give me power and strength and remind me that I am a part of a woman-community that loves and supports me and my family.

6)   A Birthing Tub. We switched hospitals last week to a place with a birthing center and a birthing tub. Crazy for 36 weeks, I know, but the problems were mounting and I am so, so grateful to be able to labor in warm water.

7)   20 Years of Yoga. I’ve been doing yoga poses and yoga breathing and yoga thinking for 20 years now. That practice got me through breakups, 9/11, cancer, the loss of a prior pregnancy, and more. I’m pretty sure it will help anchor me now—tapping into the witness within, the one who lives beyond moods and thoughts and all the fluctuations of being human. Plus, those breathing techniques really do calm the nervous system and balance brain chemistry. Om shanti om.

8)   Music. My labor mixes are almost done. I was going to go all om-y, chant-y, plus Enya, but then a friend told me she actually wanted something more intense and groovy, so I’ve got a bunch of playlists prepped, from Groove to Chill to Om to Brainwaves (some musicians claim to write stuff that sends your brain into deep chill mode). Also, because I’m me, of course I have Salt n’ Pepa’s “Push It” and Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” in there, because, hi, they’re the ultimate birth anthems.

9)   A Sense of Humor. Thankfully I have a joke-cracking husband and a tendency to turn into a stand-up comic myself when things get crazy-intense. This ensures that often in the midst of pain and freak-outs that I can laugh my tush off as needed.

10)  A Connection to the Divine. I’m not traditionally religious, but I do feel deeply connected to the spiritual realm. I also feel linked to Mother Mary. She is the sweet source of blessings I go to when things are the darkest and tightest and she always delivers with blessings and light and a tenderness that softens everything. To invoke her, I’ll bring my rose spray (roses are her scent and flower), and a memory of her unconditional love and support.

I’m hoping/praying all this will be enough. I’m also remembering that women have been doing this for millennia and that, as a friend reminded me yesterday, my body knows how to do this—it’s just a matter of getting out of the way to let it unfold. So, off to the mystery I go, wishing you blessings and cool stuff for your journey too, wherever it leads.


Mature-r Moms Have Their Own Prenatal Vitamin

A nearly full-page ad leapt out at me as I was leafing through the latest issue of Yoga Journal. It’s for Embrace Prenatal, 35+, a prenatal vitamin formulated for moms-to-be who are over 35. It features glowy, gorgeous smiling Ashtanga yoga instructor Sonya Hanlon, in a belly-baring, long-sleeved wrap top, and notes she’s “pregnant at 35.” The Rainbow Light product claims to be “The First 35+ Prenatal.” And the tagline: “35 plus, yeah baby.”

Something about the whole thing makes me want to do a happy dance, even though it’s unclear to me exactly how it’s different from other natural prenatal vitamins. As a mom-to-be over 35, I’ve seen ZERO positive messages either from the media or medical establishment. As far as they’re all concerned, I’m AMA—”advanced maternal age” or someone with “delayed maternity”—and they don’t mean that as a compliment. I get more tests, more watching, more interventions because I’m at slightly higher risk for complications. But I, specifically, am not, and neither are many of my olderish mama friends—we eat better and take better care of our minds and bodies than many women way younger than us. And what do we get for it? Suspicious articles about “mature moms” and docs who look at us like we’re a liability.

But we’re also a growing phenomenon: A recent L.A. Times article lays it down: “Among American women ages 40 to 44, birthrates have hit their highest point since 1967, data recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics reveal. Births have also become increasingly common among women in their late 30s.”

So, it’s super-awesome to see a smiling, radiant, healthy-looking almost-mama, and a product just for her, or me. The only thing I might change in the ad is that it says “for thirtysomething mothers and their babies.” As someone who is 35+ and just over “thirtysomething,” who knows lots of women in their 40s popping out perfect babies, I might extend the reach. You know, if anyone’s asking. (Also, in the tagline there really should be a comma after “yeah,” but I digress to grammar policing.)

Other than that I love the idea that this could be a trend! More options, acceptance, and products for us women who, for whatever reason, have “delayed” childbearing until we have more resources and wisdom to share. Thanks, Rainbow Light, for joining the party.


New Study: Eating and Drinking During Labor Is Fine

One of my gripes about the hospital where I’ll be delivering is that they have a no-eating policy for moms in labor. They recently started allowing “clears” to be consumed—chicken broth and the like—which my doula found very exciting and I found not near enough. I’ve read all over that not allowing women to eat and/or drink during labor is basically bunk. That view just got extra-validated by a new meta-study which surveyed research that covered more that 3,000 low-risk women in labor.

The scientists found that eating and drinking during labor had no negative impact on birth outcomes, and say that the current recommendations restricting consumption are based on a study from the 1940s. That study was done in a time when women undergoing C-sections had general anesthesia, putting them at small risk for choking if they hurled while on the medication. But today, C-sections are done almost exclusively through epidural anesthesia, an injection toward the base of the spine that allows moms to stay conscious, breathing and swallowing on their own. So there’s basically no medical basis for restricting food and drink during labor. Hopefully word will begin to spread.

My doula even suggested that some C-sections may be triggered by low-blood sugar in mom and baby—the rationale being that it’s easier to get exhausted, nauseated, and headachy and have birth stalled when you’re hungry, and if you’re depleted, baby will be too.

But sadly my hospital will likely still be in “clears” mode and any eating I may feel like doing once I’m there will have to be on the DL: “What, me chewing? No, I’m just releasing my jaw. Those mashed potatoes are totally my husband’s.”

Read more on the study here.

And here’s some nice advice about what to eat and how much to drink during labor.

Image via: Shutterstock.