All posts by Leah Mann

About Leah Mann

Leah (a.k.a. agirlandaboy) is pregnant with her second child, due July 2012, and to be perfectly honest, is kind of freaking out about it. She'll be hanging out at 24/7 Mom to share more honesty, as well as tips, news, links, suggestions, and commiseration with all you other pregnant mamas out there. Leah has been writing online since 2003. You can find her all over the Internet, but mostly at her personal blog,

pregnant woman at work in a office

Office Ergonomics for Pregnant Ladies

If you’re working while you’re pregnant, a desk job can feel like a luxury when you think about other women out there who are on their feet for hours at a time, or lifting heavy objects, or dealing with extreme temperatures or other uncomfortable working conditions. Sitting at a desk all day is an easier and safer option for a lot of pregnant women, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its challenges and risks. Just because you’re not operating industrial machinery or carrying trays of food through a maze of café tables doesn’t mean you don’t need to take special care of your pregnant body during work hours.

Here are some changes you might need to make as a pregnant desk jockey:

  • Don’t sit for too many hours at a time. Get up and walk and stretch frequently to encourage circulation in your legs and feet, which are more likely to swell and develop blood clots during pregnancy.
  • Use a comfortable desk chair and make adjustments as necessary. Lumbar back rests can reduce pressure on your lower back (a pillow might even do the trick), and a foot rest can also help ease pressure on joints as well as reduce swelling.
  • Adjust the height of your computer monitor and/or desk to accommodate your growing belly and the increased curve of your spine.
  • Take care of your hands. Increased fluid in the joints makes pregnant women more at risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition characterized by painful hands, wrists, and forearms. Using a wrist rest with your keyboard can be helpful, as can limiting the amount of typing you do.
  • Avoid lifting anything heavier than 25 pounds (or 10 pounds in the third trimester), and take special care not to lift things directly off the ground. It’s now someone else’s job to change out the jug on the water cooler for a few months.
  • Pregnancy can affect your balance, so be especially careful on step stools, platforms, and stairs.
  • Consider telecommuting during the final stages of pregnancy.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for special accommodations you might need. States have laws governing the treatment of pregnant employees, so know your rights and be your own advocate for a safe and healthy pregnancy at the office.
Blood bag

Cord Blood Banking: Is It Worth It?

Most of what I’ve heard about cord blood banking falls into two categories: (1) It could save my unborn baby’s life in the future and (2) It costs a lot of money. It’s obviously hard (if not impossible) to put a price on your child’s life, but how can you be sure you’re not wasting money on a service you don’t need? I did some research into the cord blood banking process and learned some surprising facts – facts that changed my mind about whether or not I’ll bank my baby’s cord blood when s/he’s born this year.

Whether or not to bank cord blood – and how to do it – is a personal decision. Here’s some basic information to help you make the choice that’s right for your family.

What Is It?

Cord blood is collected from your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta after he or she is born, and the cells contained in that blood can be used to help treat life-threatening diseases like leukemia and lymphoma. Cord blood that is not collected for banking will otherwise be thrown away.

Who Can Use Cord Blood?

If you choose to store your baby’s cord blood in a private bank (at your own cost), the unit will be available to your baby and/or a sibling if they should need it in the future. If you donate the cord blood (at NO COST TO YOU), the unit will be entered into a national registry and will be available to anyone who is a match for the donation. (I didn’t know you could donate cord blood free of charge to possibly help save someone else’s life! This was a game-changer for me.)

What About My Privacy?

Your cord blood donation will be completely anonymous.

When Is It Collected?

Cord blood is generally collected in the 10 minutes immediately after your baby is born, which means you’re going to be so focused on other things you’ll never even notice. No blood is collected directly from your baby.

How Much Does It Cost?

You can donate cord blood at no cost. (Free free free!) The March of Dimes estimates current rates for private storage at $1,700 to $2,000 for the collection, plus a yearly storage fee of $125.

How Do I Decide Between Private Banking and Donation?

Also from the March of Dimes:

How likely is a baby to someday need treatment with his own stem cells? It is very unlikely that a baby will need a transplant of his own cord-blood stem cells (the chances are estimated at about 1 in 2,700). If a child does require a stem-cell transplant, his own stem cells usually are not the safest or most effective source of stem cells for treatment, especially in cases of childhood cancers or inherited (genetic) disorders. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) considers unwise the private storage of cord blood as biological insurance by families who do not have a history of the disorders mentioned above. However, the AAP and many scientists favor the collection and storage of cord blood in public banks to be used for unrelated recipients who urgently need blood cell transplants.

How Can I Bank/Donate?

Before your 34th week of pregnancy, let your local cord blood bank (and your doctor) know you’re interested in cord blood collection. This allows the bank time to send you a collection kit.

Where Can I Find More Information?

The National Marrow Donor Program has links that will help you understand the process, learn how and when and where you can either store or donate your cord blood, and what you need to do now. The March of Dimes has additional information.

What I’m Thinking

Until today, I thought cord blood banking was only for private use, and I personally couldn’t justify spending that much money on what is basically flawed insurance I might not ever need. It made sense for other families, but not for mine. But now that I know I can donate my baby’s cord blood? And that it’s an easy, no-cost, painless chance to possibly help someone with a life-threatening disease? And that my hospital is on this list of facilities who work directly with local cord blood banks? I’ve made my decision: I’m donating my baby’s cord blood and maybe together we’ll save someone’s life.

Have you looked into cord blood collection? Do you have any plans to bank or donate?

Smiling happy older asian father with stylish short beard touching daughter's hand on shoulder looking and talking together with love and care. Family relationship with bond and care concept.

4 Ways to Make Dad Feel Great

Do you like adventure? Want to travel to places unknown? Congratulations! Along with the birth of your baby comes the beginning of a lifelong adventure in learning for you and your partner – about yourselves, each other, and your child.

Put this positive frame around the additional responsibilities of caring for the person who has entered your lives. Let your partner know that you are excited about exploring this new territory together, on smooth trails and bumpy roads, and that you need his love and support.

1. Help him learn baby basics

Your partner may feel less confident than you do in caring for the baby’s daily needs. He may want to watch you diaper, bathe or feed the baby before he tries to do these tasks on his own. Or you might end up learning these baby basics together. Either way, compliment his efforts, and see them as one more reason to give him a hug and one more moment when you can share the miracle of your infant.

2. Express your love

Comments such as “He has your eyes!” or “Wow! I can tell he has your sweet smile!” help your baby’s father appreciate how much you love about him. In front of your partner, share the good news with your friends about the “family affair” that you and he have begun, a true partnership in parenthood. Doing so will send him a message that you need and love him – a sure way to help him feel great.

3. Express your needs

Put yourself in his shoes: You’ve been given so much of the attention during pregnancy; now it’s time for that attention to shift to how “we” are doing as a new mom and dad. Let your partner know what you’d like him to do and accept his telling you his needs too. This is new territory – although he may know which salad you like at a restaurant you always go to, he may not know how important it is to you that he give the baby a bath.

4. Share the wonder of your baby

Intimacy means different things to different people. But one way to boost your emotional satisfaction as a couple for the rest of your lives together is to marvel at the miracle that is your child. Set the stage now: Share your feelings about the baby as you bathe, diaper and hold her together; then never let those feelings go as your baby grows.

How to Raise a Foodie

Matthew Amster-Barton is an award-winning food writer turned stay-at-home dad. His book “Hungry Monkey” offers a humorous and inspiring account of how he turned food into a shared adventure for himself and his baby daughter. “Hungry Monkey” is sprinkled with the baby, toddler and kid recipes he came up with as Iris grew. Age four at the time of this interview with Dad, Iris had just started using her own electric frying pan.

When Matthew Amster-Burton’s baby, Iris, was 6 1/2 months, she suddenly became very interested in what was on her parents’ plates. Papa, a food writer and stay-at-home dad, didn’t particularly want his daughter’s first taste of solid food to be bland cereal; instead, he peeled some fresh fruit and mashed it to a pulp. Next up: nibbles of whatever was on the family table. Within a couple of months, Iris and her dad were sharing tasty dishes like Chicken and Mushrooms. Forget about introducing solids food by food!

Some experts say that you can avoid raising a picky eater by raising an adventurous one. Matthew isn’t so sure (“Parents should not hold themselves responsible for whether their baby is a picky eater,” he says. “Let yourself off the hook.”). For him, sharing the food he loves with his baby is simply a way to enjoy her.

“Food is an opportunity to have fun sharing something with your baby,” Matthew says. It’s something my daughter and I can enjoy in the same way and on the same level – it tastes good to both of us, and so we’re enjoying the same experience. Parents need to figure out where they’ll connect with their kids; it could be music or sports, but food is in its own special category. You’re both going to have to eat anyway, and having fun with it keeps it from becoming a chore. ”

According to Matthew, the best time to start giving your baby everything you love to eat is at the very beginning. We asked him to tell us more – and to share some recipes!

Were you ever worried about going against popular wisdom on babies and solids?

[Feeding authority] Ellyn Satter’s book Child of Mine reassured me that our approach was okay. And Iris was helpful because she enjoyed  all the things we fed her. Also, she exclusively breastfed until she was 6 months and then was still getting breast milk and formula afterward, which helped us feel good – we knew that that until age 1 the core of her diet was breast milk and formula. The only thing I worried about was choking hazards. Anything we shared with her, we chopped very fine.

What about allergies and condiments like salt and spices?

The allergen thing is a popular myth – there was an American Pediatric Association recommendation for a long time to avoid nuts and shellfish, but that was reviewed last year and the APA now says it’s okay to start your baby on these beginning at 6 months. Serving them won’t provoke an allergy.

Salt is an issue for babies too young to be eating solids  – they have a lot of trouble metabolizing salt until they’re 4 or 6 months. After that it’s fine. Babies love spicy foods just as they like brightly colored things – they don’t like bland. [Editor’s note: Reactions to allergens can be severe and potentially life-threatening. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expose your baby – in fact, early exposure might protect children from allergies – but plan the exposure and be prepared, just in case.]

Your top tips for raising a foodieSee suggestions from our mom community.

•    Start early to have fun with food: Take advantage of the months between first solids and that moment when babies start expressing strong preferences about what they want to eat.

•    Remember that young babies are adventurous when it comes to food. They’ll eat anything. They’ve been dying to put things in their mouth for months, and their parents have said no – and now it’s okay! When Iris was 12 months her favorites included spicy enchiladas, Brussels sprouts, Belgian eggplant gratin, and any kind of stew. On the other hand, toddlers have a sixth sense for being manipulated; if they think their parents are trying to manipulate them into eating something, they will rebel.

•    Don’t worry if you rarely do more than heat a frozen or prepared meal. You can do that and still share food with your baby. There’s a wide variety of frozen and prepared foods totally suitable for sharing. I was getting ethnic and gourmet frozen foods and sharing them with Iris by the time she was 1. [Editors note: See Hungry Monkey for Matthew’ and Iris’s favorite convenience foods, including frozen potstickers , polenta and freeze-dried gnocchi.] It’s all about sharing the foods you love with your baby.

•    Exploring ethnic markets is really fun – it’s one of our favorite pastimes. We’ve discovered new foods together and both ended up liking them.

•    Some babies don’t like food with lumps and need it blended. You have to get to know what your baby likes. Little gums are really powerful and those first teeth, the incisors, don’t make much difference. Iris liked having the practice of chewing things up. She could eat vegetables like green beans, carrots and snow peas cooked not too soft, and she loved chunks of sweet potato and kidney beans. But stew is the ultimate baby food. You can make it ahead, it lasts for days in the fridge, the texture is perfect for someone who has no teeth, and you can use so many different proteins, you can flavor it any way you want.

Odds Improve for Infertile Couples Hoping to Conceive

How many couples do you know that have undergone IVF in order to conceive a child? Are you one of them?

Experts estimate that approximately 5 million babies have been born as a result of assisted reproduction technologies since the first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born in July 1978. FIVE MILLION BABIES. That’s a lot of parents whose dreams of having a child might otherwise never have come true. Yay, science!

According to data presented at last month’s 28th Meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), in Istanbul, Turkey, the number of babies born via IVF (in vitro fertilization) and similar techniques is growing every year and, as it becomes more mainstream, it’s also becoming more successful. Since 2008, the success rate from a single fresh treatment cycle of IVF and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) has stabilized at around a 32 percent pregnancy rate for each embryo that is transferred.

Meanwhile, as the number of births increases, the total number of embryos transferred has dropped significantly; more single-embryo transfers means greater survival rates for the babies, since multiples are at an increased risk for complications. One doctor cited stats that said the rate of triplets born to couples who have undergone ART has fallen below 1 percent and the twin delivery rate was at an all-time low of 19.6 percent.

According to Medical News Today, Dr. Anna Veiga, chairwoman of ESHRE and scientific director at Dexeus University Institute, in Barcelona, Spain, said:

“Five million babies are a clear demonstration that IVF and ICSI are now an essential part of normalized and standardized clinical therapies for the treatment of infertile couples.”

What could be better news for infertile couples and the people who care about them?

I have a handful of family members and friends who have dealt with varying forms of infertility. Some have chosen medical procedures like IVF, some have opted for adoption, and others have decided to be child-free. The fact that  infertility treatments have become, as Dr. Veiga said above, “normalized and standardized” makes me hope the next step is making the process more affordable for people who need it.



a mother holding her hand up

Should Your Baby’s Visitors Get Vaccinated?

The cold and flu season is a long way off, but that doesn’t mean your new baby will be safe from germs. Even minor coughs and sniffly noses that are mostly just annoying to adults and older children can be harmful to newborns, and obviously more serious illnesses can put them at greater risk.

Babies’ immune systems aren’t always up to the task of dealing with the outside world – which is why the American Pediatrics Association vaccination schedule recommends they get their first immunization as early as a few hours after birth. But infant vaccinations aside, have you given any thought to how you can protect your baby by insisting that family and friends who visit are themselves vaccinated? Especially for illnesses your baby is too young to be vaccinated against herself?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone who will come in contact with an infant receive the DTaP vaccine – which guards against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (a.k.a. whooping cough) – at least two weeks prior to visiting the baby. During the winter, flu shots are also recommended for people who care for infants and small children. The list can change depending on what kinds of sickness are making the rounds in a given season.

Is this something that’s on your radar as you prepare for the birth of your child? Do you worry you might offend someone by insisting they be vaccinated against certain illnesses before they come in contact with your infant? (I know someone whose brother stopped talking to him for A YEAR because he was asked to wash his hands before holding his new nephew. I can only imagine how he’d react to the vaccine talk…)

I remember getting a few immunizations myself while I was in the hospital after the birth of my first child, but I never thought to ask visitors whether they were protected too, even though that was in December, the height of the cold and flu season. Definitely something to think about this time around…

Pregnant businesswoman

When Will You Go on Maternity Leave?

I’m almost 2 weeks away from my due date, but my maternity leave officially starts in just 7 days (and not a moment too soon!). I know a lot of women work right up until the births of their babies, and although I probably could too (I have a work-at-home desk job), I’m really looking forward to having the time off to just focus on preparing for the new addition, especially since I still have so much to do before he arrives. (We only finally set up the crib last weekend!)

Members of the Mom365 community are discussing this issue in the forums, and it seems like most moms based their maternity leave on the type of job they had and whether the demands of that position meant they could/should be working, rather than taking the time off just because it was more convenient/comfortable that way. My job is easy enough to do while physically pregnant, but I’m really grateful I’ll get this chance at a short mental break between a busy days full of projects and deadlines and mental demands before I dive headfirst into the strange world of Newbornland again. Going on maternity leave 10 days before my due date definitely makes the best sense for me, and I’m very thankful to my employer (and my state’s mat leave policy) for the option.

How about you? Will you use up some of your maternity leave before the baby’s born, or will you stay at work until the last possible moment? (I had one coworker who finished her 9-5 day at the office and then had her baby later that night!)


Birth Photography

Would You Hire a Birth Photographer?

After I wrote this post, I asked my husband how he felt about inviting a few select family members and/or friends into the delivery room this time. His response? “Um, no.” We had such a great experience for the birth of our first child—when it was just the two (and then three) of us (plus hospital staff)—that he doesn’t want to complicate things by adding a bunch of extra people to the mix.

I’m okay with that decision (we don’t have any local family anyway), but if I were in the mood to argue, I’d lobby, first and foremost, for an official photographer. The way I look at it, having a pro photographer in the room would be like having any other hired help there (like a doula) and therefore wouldn’t invite the kind of drama that might result from asking close family or friends to tag along for the ride. Plus: pretty pretty pictures of a process that is definitely “beautiful” but not always terribly photogenic.

Some people might think it’s a little weird/inappropriate/obsessive to hire a professional to document labor/delivery and then a baby’s first moments, but I figure if you’re going to have a camera in the room anyway (and I certainly will), you might as well put a truly talented person on the shutter. And if you’ve never seen truly gorgeous birth photography, you’re really missing out.

Here are some good ones on my “birth photography” Pinterest board.

If this sounds like the sort of thing you’re interested in, Google for birth photographers in your area and/or check out the International Association of Professional Birth Photographers, whose website includes links to members as well as sample photos.

I’m curious how you feel about this sort of thing.


positive pregnancy test

Pregnancy Tests: Keep or Toss?

While I was organizing the attic during a recent bout of vigorous third-trimester nesting, I came across something I wasn’t expecting: a positive pregnancy test, from my first pregnancy, more than 4 years ago.

Awww. And also ewww.

What was I doing holding onto something I’d… peed on? Gross. And yet I couldn’t throw it away. (And I probably never will).

I’m not the type of woman who took a dozen pregnancy tests back to back to back just to be sure the result was accurate, so it’s not like I have a whole drawer of these things somewhere, lying in wait for an unsuspecting houseguest to find by accident. And I’m certainly not saving it so I can mount it in a shadowbox frame and hang it in the hallway for all to see. One stick tucked away in a box in the attic with other random mementos isn’t going to freak anyone out, is it?

What did you do with your positive pregnancy tests? Toss them? Keep them? Keep them just long enough to take a picture to post to Facebook and then throw them away?

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Expectant mothers

Is Pregnancy a Disability?

On a trip to the store over the weekend (to buy itty-bitty newborn diapers!), something caught my eye that never has before: the line of motorized shopping carts near the front door. I’m less than a month away from my due date, it was over 90 degrees outside, and I was waddling around on sore hips and swollen feet, moving slower than a drunk duck. And so for a moment I allowed myself to fantasize about hopping on one of those scooters and zipping my way down the aisles in a comfortable seated position.

It was the first time I’d ever wanted to be like Snooki.

Last week the 7-months-pregnant star of Jersey Shore was spotted scootering down the Seaside Heights boardwalk with costars JWoww and Pauly D. According to one report, the scooter was originally for JWoww, who sprained her ankle during a bar fight while filming the show. (You can see the bandages on her foot in the above photo.)

Who knows if there’s a medical reason Snooki needs the scooter or if she’s just taking advantage of it to be more comfortable during her third trimester. When I told my doctor my sciatica was acting up again, she didn’t offer me a scooter, but she did ask if I wanted her to get me a temporary handicapped tag to hang from my rearview mirror so I could park closer to stores when I go out. I declined because (a) it wasn’t really that bad and also (b) I didn’t want to take a parking spot from someone who really needed it.

In general, I try not to treat my pregnancy as a disability, but then…sometimes it kind of is, you know?

Would you ride/have you ridden a scooter during your pregnancy?

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