Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Who Cares About Breastfeeding and the Working Mother?

This is a follow-up post to the one I wrote yesterday titled "Maternity Leave in the US is Pitiful Compared to Other Countries."  In that post I stated that shorter maternity leaves are associated with decreased breastfeeding.  We as a country need to push for better legislation to encourage longer maternity leaves which will increase breastfeeding rates.  However, why should someone who is not breastfeeding care?  Breastfeeding is in the best interest of the country as a whole and not just for women with babies.

In February, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed their breastfeeding guidelines.  They recommend "exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant."  This recommendation is "supported by the health outcomes of exclusively breastfed infants and infants who never or only partially breastfed. Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed vs. non-breastfed infants. Approximately 75 percent of newborn infants initiate breastfeeding."

The Department of Health and Human Services published a booklet entitled "The Business Case for Breastfeeding:  For Business Managers."  In this booklet, they make the case for supporting breastfeeding mothers by showing a "return of investment."  They state that:
1. "Breastfeeding employees miss work less often."  75% of mothers of formula fed infants missed 1 day of work due to an illness in their infant compared to 25% of mothers of breastfed infants.
2.  "Breastfeeding lowers healthcare costs.  Babies who are not breastfed visit the physician more often, spend more days in the hospital, and require more prescriptions than breastfed infants."
3. "Investing in a worksite lactation support program can yield substantial dividends to the company."  Lower turnover rates are a result.  "Employees are more likely to return to work after childbirth when their workplace provides a supportive environment for continued breastfeeding.  Being able to keep experienced employees after childbirth means lowering or eliminating the costs a company otherwise would incur to hire temporary staff or to recruit, hire, and train replacement staff, both of which involve additional lost revenue while getting these new staff up to speed."

Even the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published information in support of breastfeeding in the workplace.  Yet despite all of this information, many in the public do not understand the importance of breastfeeding and being able to continue pumping after a mother returns to work.

Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand.  If a mother is not able to express breastmilk while at work, her body will simply stop producing milk.  Pumping while at work will "trick" the body into thinking the baby is nursing.  Thankfully in March 2010, a new federal law went into effect which requires an employer to provide "a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk; and a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk."

The National Conference of State Legislatures also has published a list of states and their individual laws regarding breastfeeding and pumping when at work.  Some states actually have better provisions than the federal requirements.  There are also 12 states that exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty.

Are you apprehensive about approaching your boss or employer about breastfeeding/pumping after returning to work?  The La Leche League has some helpful hints published on their website.  The United States Breastfeeding Committee also has some great resources for employers and employees about breastfeeding at work.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health is also a great resource.  It is also best to educate your co-workers about the importance of breastfeeding and the continuation of it after returning to work.  I breastfed my baby for 22 months and pumped at work until he was 18 months old.  It was important to me and I made it a point to inform my co-workers and my management about my intentions.  I think education is key to making the transition back to work easier and to facilitate the continuation of breastfeeding.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Maternity Leave in the US is Pitiful Compared to Other Countries.

Did you know the United States is the only "high-income nation" without a nationwide paid maternity leave policy?  178 other countries around the world offer some sort of paid parental leave.  By not offering paid maternity leave, we are listed among countries such as Lesotho, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.  The only nationwide leave policy available to Americans is the Family and Medial Leave Act (FMLA).  FMLA allows "eligible employees of covered employers to take UNPAID, JOB-PROTECTED leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave."  This act only allows 12 work weeks of leave in a 12 month period for "the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth."  This, unfortunately, is only available if you work for a business with more than 50 employes and are not part-time (worked fewer than 1250 hours within the 12 months preceding the leave and a paid vacation).

12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave is all that is allowed under US federal law.  This is in stark contrast to other countries like Canada which has paid maternity benefits (mother only) for 15 weeks, then shared benefits (for mother and father) for 25 weeks.  Since there is a 2 week waiting period, a family can have up to 52 weeks of "maternity leave."  That is an entire year!  European leave policies are even more generous with the Czech Republic and Slovakia allowing 3 years with every child.  The Swedish are entitled to 18 months paid maternity leave and in the UK, females are entitled to 52 weeks of paid maternity leave.

I have been reading a lot of message boards online and have read horror stories of mothers in the United States who had to return to work essentially from the moment they were released from the hospital.  Without a nationwide paid maternity leave, many women are faced with having to go back to work shortly after their children are born.  I was even told by my employer after the birth of my first child, that I had to go back to work after four weeks!  They're based on the east coast and didn't realize that California has their own set of maternity leave policies.  In the state of California, you are allowed up to 18 weeks of maternity leave.  While all of it is not paid, it does extend job protected leave for 6 weeks beyond the federal FMLA.  The National Partnership for Women and Family has a great website with an interactive chart showing how "family friendly" your state is.

I'm not a "stay-at-home" kind of person.  I have a lot of admiration for mother's that are able to do that.  I honestly just do not have the patience for it and I enjoy the interaction that I get with adults when I am at work.  However, I firmly believe that a new mother should be able to take at a minimum of six months of maternity leave after having a child.  It will facilitate bonding with the baby and will encourage breastfeeding.  Mothers will have time to establish breastfeeding and pump and store extra milk to use when the mother returns to work.  I am still unsure about more time beyond that since there have been some downsides to extended leaves.

A study published in June 2011 Issue of Pediatrics found that women who took at least 13 weeks of maternity leave had the highest rate of breastfeeding initiation than mothers that only took 1 to 6 weeks of leave.  "Women on longer maternity leaves breastfeed longer." If women are faced with the prospect of having to return to work shortly after having a baby, many do not even attempt to breastfeed.  In fact, "a maternity leave of six weeks or less, or between six and 12 weeks, was associated with a fourfold and twofold higher risk, respectively, of non-established breastfeeding."  Another study looked at "The Effect of Maternity Leave Length and Time of Return to Work on Breastfeeding."  This study found that "women who returned to work at or after 13 weeks postpartum had higher odds of predominantly breastfeeding beyond 3 months."  Keep in mind that FMLA only allows 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant."   This position is also supported by the World Health Organization which advocates breastfeeding until the age of two and beyond.  Exclusive breastfeeding means the mother is providing the only source of nutrition for her child.  This is difficult to do when a mother is forced to return to work after only a few weeks.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a "breastfeeding report card."  In this report card, which is broken down by state, mothers are surveyed to determine if they have ever breastfed, breastfeeding at 6 months, breastfeeding at 12 months, exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months and exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months.  The results of the survey are shocking.  The percentage of women who are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months range from 5.9% (Alabama) to 25.7% (California).  I think that it is no coincidence that the state with the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding is California.  California is one of the few states that offer job protected leave that is more generous than the federal FMLA.  What is also shocking is that only a quarter of mothers are able to meet the recommendations set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

I think we as a country need to do a better job advocating for better leave policies for new mothers.  I will use another post to discuss why we should support and encourage breastfeeding when a mother returns to work.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Toxic Baby Shampoo?

Another topic that I have been meaning to write about is in regards to "toxic" baby shampoo.  Back in November, I had read several news articles from the Huffington Post and regarding "toxic" baby shampoo.  These articles were based on a report released on November 1, 2011 by the group, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which found that Johnson and Johnson's Baby Shampoo contained a preservative called quaternium-15.  This chemical acts as a preservative by killing bacteria by releasing formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is considered a known carcinogen (meaning "any substance or agent that tends to produce cancer") by groups such as the National Cancer Institute and the World Health Organization. Also, according to an article published in the Dermatologist, quaternium-15 is the "most common cause of cosmetic preservative allergy in the United States."

Unfortunately, Johnson and Johnson is probably aware of this issue since they have stopped using this preservative in their products in the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, the Netherlands and Japan.  This preservative is still being used in products sold in the United States, Canada, China, Indonesia and Australia.  When this report came out in November, many groups advocated for a boycott of Johnson and Johnson's products.  As a result, the company released a statement stating that they "have been phasing out the use of preservatives that release tiny amounts of formaldehyde to guard against bacterial contamination."  Unfortunately, it doesn't appear that this preservative has been "phased out" in the United States at this time.

Naturally, after reading about this back in November, I immediately began looking at the labels of the Johnson and Johnson's baby products that I have.  To my horror, the "Calming Lavender" shampoo that I had been using on my baby contained this preservative!

As you can tell by the pictures, I had used quite a bit of this stuff and it was not the first bottle that I had bought.  I immediately began thinking about all of the other products that I have been using on my baby.  There probably is only a small risk of something truly bad happening to my child and there have been literally thousands of people that have used this product without any adverse effects.  However, why would I continue to use a product that contains this ingredient when there are many more out there which do not?  Also, why would I support a company by buying their products when they selectively "clean up" their product for certain countries and not others?

The Environmental Working Group has a great database that you can use to search for baby shampoos (or lotions, soaps or sunscreen [which I mentioned in an earlier post]).  The purpose of this database is to help people "find safer products with fewer ingredients that are hazardous or have not been thoroughly tested."  I now go to this database when selecting products for myself and baby.  I have also become more aware of reading the ingredients on a label before purchasing a product.

Thank you to all who have died in service to our nation.

I would like to take this opportunity in the spirit of Memorial Day, to thank all of the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country.  It is because of your sacrifice that my children and I are able to enjoy the freedoms that we are given in the United States.  I may not agree with many people's political or personal views but I appreciate that in this country we are able to freely express them without fear of reprisal.  I also appreciate that we can choose our elected officials and do not live in an autocratic society where decisions are made without any input from the populace.  I have much to be thankful for the sacrifices these men and women have made.

Before you start that barbecue, please remember that today is more than just a day off.  There is history behind the day and we should remember what the day is really all about.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Happy Birthday to the World's Greatest Husband and to the Golden Gate Bridge

May 27th happens to be the birthdate of my wonderful husband and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California.  This year is especially important since it is a milestone birthday for my husband and the bridge's 75th birthday.

Without getting all mushy and sentimental, I'd like to start by saying what a truly lucky girl I am to have such a wonderful husband.  He's a wonderful dad to our children and without him, I honestly don't know what my life would have become.  He's a very private person so I will spare you and him any more "sappiness."

As for the Golden Gate Bridge, it is one of the truly iconic landmarks of San Francisco.  It was first opened to pedestrians on May 27, 1937 and traffic on May 28, 1937.  It took just over 4 years to complete.  The Golden Gate Strait (which the bridge spans) was named by John C. Fremont because "it reminded him of a harbor in Istanbul named Chrysoceras or Golden Horn."  It has always been painted orange vermilion, deemed "International Orange."  The distinctive orange color was chosen "because it blends well with the span's natural setting as it is a warm color consistent with the warm colors of the land masses in the setting as distinct from the cool colors of the sky and sea.  It also provides enhanced visibility for passing ships."

If you're in the San Francisco Bay area on May 27th, you can help celebrate the bridge's birthday by participating in any of the events listed on this special anniversary website.  There will even be a fireworks show (the bridge will be closed at that time) from 9:30-9:50.

I also noticed that even google has gotten into the birthday spirit!

Here is some video footage of the fireworks show as viewed from across the bay:

Saturday, May 26, 2012

National Missing Children's Day

I am a day late in writing about National Missing Children's Day.  It happened yesterday, May 25th and has been commemorated on that day since 1983.  This day and "Take 25" is a "preventative child safety campaign created by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).  A missing child is every parent's worst nightmare.  Recent cases like Etan Patz and Sierra LaMar are bringing attention back to this day.  Things like the Amber Alert and Megan's Law were designed to find children that have been abducted or alert parents to potential "threats" in their neighborhoods.  Even the FBI has resources for parents to protect their children.  I do not like thinking about the possibility of my child being abducted and cannot even begin to imagine the pain and suffering families go through when their child is abducted.  Hopefully, by following the tips below from the "Take 25" campaign, we can make our kids safer:

25 ways to make kids safer

At Home

  1. Teach your children their full names, address, and home telephone number. Make sure they know your full name.
  2. Make sure your children know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone.
  3. Teach your children how and when to use 911 and make sure your children have a trusted adult to call if they’re scared or have an emergency.
  4. Instruct children to keep the door locked and not to open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone. Set rules with your children about having visitors over when you’re not home and how to answer the telephone.
  5. Choose babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask children how the experience with the caregiver was and listen carefully to their responses.

On the Net

  1. Learn about the Internet. The more you know about how the Web works, the better prepared you are to teach your children about potential risks. Visit for more information about Internet safety.
  2. Place the family computer in a common area, rather than a child’s bedroom. Also, monitor their time spent online and the websites they’ve visited and establish rules for Internet use.
  3. Know what other access your child may have to the Internet at school, libraries, or friends’ homes.
  4. Use privacy settings on social networking sites to limit contact with unknown users and make sure screen names don’t reveal too much about your children.
  5. Encourage your children to tell you if anything they encounter online makes them feel sad, scared, or confused.
  6. Caution children not to post revealing information or inappropriate photos of themselves or their friends online.

At School

  1. Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. If your children ride a bus, visit the bus stop with them to make sure they know which bus to take.
  2. Remind kids to take a friend whenever they walk or bike to school. Remind them to stay with a group if they’re waiting at the bus stop.
  3. Caution children never to accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it is OK to do so in each instance.

Out and About

  1. Take your children on a walking tour of the neighborhood and tell them whose homes they may visit without you.
  2. Remind your children it’s OK to say NO to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and teach your children to tell you if anything or anyone makes them feel this way.
  3. Teach your children to ask permission before leaving home.
  4. Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside.
  5. Teach your children to never approach a vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult.
  6. Practice "what if" situations and ask your children how they would respond. “What if you fell off your bike and you needed help? Who would you ask?”
  7. Teach your children to check in with you if there is a change of plans.
  8. During family outings, establish a central, easy-to-locate spot to meet for check-ins or should you get separated.
  9. Teach your children how to locate help at theme parks, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and other public places. Also, identify those people who they can ask for help, such as uniformed law enforcement, security guards and store clerks with nametags.
  10. Help your children learn to recognize and avoid potential risks, so that they can deal with them if they happen.
  11. Teach your children that if anyone tries to grab them, they should make a scene and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming, and resisting.

Another interesting and potentially thought provoking website (at least for the state of California) is the Megan's Law database.  It is interesting yet chilling at the same time to find out about the registered sex offenders in your area.  You can find out information about their name, address and even crime committed! 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thinking of Remodeling? Think About the Hazards of Lead Paint.

My husband and I have been watching a lot of HGTV lately.  Many of the shows feature DIY (do-it-yourself) projects or home renovations.  The thing that makes me cringe when watching these shows are their utter lack of protection (or even mention) against the hazards of lead paint exposure.  I think the hazard of lead paint is often dangerously overlooked.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is safe to assume that any home built before 1978 will have lead paint.

Why is lead paint so hazardous?  Lead paint can flake and peel over time.  The dust caused by the deteriorating paint can be ingested by children when they touch contaminated surfaces and then place their fingers in their mouths.  Lead poisoning in children can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems.  Once exposed, the "standard treatments for lead-poisoned children produce only a short-term or marginal lowering of the child's body lead levels and do not lower the child's chance of developing lead-related behavioral or learning problems."  Children are at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing.  In other words, "the best treatment is prevention."

Lead paint is not only dangerous to children, it is also dangerous to pregnant and nursing mothers.  Too much lead in pregnant women may cause:  miscarriage, pre-term birth, low birth weight, hurt the baby's brain, kidneys and nervous system, or cause learning or behavior problems in the child.  The March of Dimes also has some great information about lead and pregnancy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "widespread lead screening of children" for lead exposure.  They have some great information about lead screening for children.  Even if you do not live in a home built before 1978, your child may attend day care or go to a school built before 1978 and can be exposed to lead paint.

Since prevention is the key to prevent lead poisoning, in 2008, the EPA issued the "lead, renovation, repair and painting program."  "It requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in pre-1978 homes, child care facilities and schools be certified by EPA and that they use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices."  To comply, contractors must contain the work area, minimize dust and clean up thoroughly.  They must also provide information about the hazards of lead with a brochure.

I remember back in college volunteering for organizations like Habitat for Humanity and doing demolition work.  We worked on some pretty old homes and not once did anyone ever mention the hazards of lead paint.  It didn't even cross my mind that doing demolition work on some of those houses would have been hazardous.  For the person that does these DIY projects, the EPA's brochure is a great resource.  I only hope that programs that air on television will do more to educate the public and protect themselves and workers on their shows from the effects of lead paint exposure.  Lead poisoning is highly preventable if only people knew about the dangers and ways to minimize the risk.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 25: "Don't Fry Day"

Did you know that Friday, May 25th is "Don't Fry Day?"  This day was designated by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to highlight sun safety.  By now, everyone knows that excessive sun exposure can lead to skin cancer.  This day is to highlight the things people can do to stay safe and protect themselves from excessive sun exposure.

Preventing excessive sun exposure in children is especially important.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great advice regarding sun safety for children.  This advice is especially important since even a "single dose of strong sunlight during childhood can lead to melanoma."  Generally speaking, a baby under 6 months of age should NOT be exposed to direct sunlight.  They should be kept in the shade or covered with a hat or other protective clothing.  Sunburn in a baby less than a year old should be treated as an emergency and a doctor should be consulted.

Peak sunlight occurs between 10AM and 4PM, this is when it is advised for people of all ages to minimize their exposure to direct sunlight.  The Environmental Protection Agency has a great website for people to look up the UV index in their area.  The higher the number, the quicker exposed skin is likely to burn.

If you must go out in the sun, it is advised that you wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply at least every 2 hours.   In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced new rules regarding the labeling of sunscreen products.  The new rules help make it easier for consumers to select the right sunscreen product.  The Environmental Working Group also has a great database that consumers can type in the name of a specific product and it will indicate if the product contains ingredients that may cause "concern"for being a hormone disrupter or for causing cancer.

As I get older, I find myself "paranoid" about the sun.  I remember spending days growing up at the beach without sunscreen.  Sunscreen back then was thought of as a way to prevent sunburn.  No one thought about the long-term implications of sunburn or the increased risk of skin cancer that sunburn may cause.  I cringe at the thought of the numerous sunburns I received as a child.  Given all of this information, I try to be safer with my children.  I try to heed the advice by the many organizations mentioned above.  It is never too early to teach my children about sun safety and if I lead by example, I hope they will follow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How Common is Your Birthday?

I stumbled upon this cool interactive chart while reading another blog.  I never thought to find out statistically speaking, how common my birthdate really is.  It is fun to see many friends on facebook with similar birthdays.  However, this chart makes a visual comparison over the entire year to babies born in the United States between 1973 and 1999.  The chart was based on an article published on  It is interesting to note that the most common birthday is September 16th (actually September is the most popular month).  Kind of makes you wonder what people are doing during the cold holiday season...  I guess things are really "merry and bright" that time of year.   January 1, December 25 and February 29th were the least popular birthdays.  I guess that if I had to "choose" a birthday with an induction or planned c-section, I would avoid those days as well.  Growing up, I always felt sorry for those kids that were born close to Christmas or only got to celebrate their "real" birthday once every 4 years.  This chart is a lot of fun.  Where does your birthday rank?  I wonder what day baby #2 will finally arrive???

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Is Squatting Better than Kegels for Childbirth?

In the wee hours of the morning, when I am suffering from a horrible case of pregnancy-induced insomnia after having to wake up for the umpteenth time to use the bathroom, I start looking at a running list of webpages that I have been intending to read when I have the chance.  The pack rat in me can't help but "keep" things even if it is in an electronic format.  Anyway, I stumbled upon an interesting blog post that I first read about shortly after my first baby was born.  It was entitled, "Pelvic Floor Party Kegels are NOT invited."  At the time this was posted, I had just had my first baby and didn't give it much thought but the premise intrigued me.  Now that I am expecting my second baby, it seems very interesting.  The premise of this post (written by a runner - which I used to do a lot of once upon a time), is that weak gluteal muscles (the buttocks) in conjunction with doing too many kegels are BAD and can lead to  "pelvic floor disorder" (PFD).

PFD can cause stress incontinence.  Stress incontinence is something many pregnant women (including myself) experience.  It is the inability to maintain bladder control under "stressful" situations like sneezing or coughing.  The theory behind this post was that by strengthening weak gluteal muscles through squatting exercises and by eliminating excessive crunches and doing more "plank" positions to strengthen the core, you can avoid PFD.  A weak pelvic floor can also cause uterine prolapse.   Uterine prolapse can be a result of childbirth.  A prolapse happens when the "ligaments supporting the uterus become so weak that the uterus cannot stay in place and slips down from its normal position."  In a follow-up post, they also explored how too many kegels (which all pregnant women are told will help labor and delivery) may actually make labor and delivery harder by tightening the pelvic floor.

These posts were very much "anti-kegel" and very "pro-squatting" as a way to prepare for labor.  I'm not sure what to think since I couldn't find any scientifically published peer-reviewed articles detailing these findings in a study.  However, as I began to think about it, throughout human history, people have been squatting to do things.  I remember going to Korea and Japan and seeing toilets that you had to squat over to use.  My western-raised self recoiled in horror at the thought of having to squat over an open hole to use the bathroom but maybe there is something to it.  In western society, we rarely squat when we do anything (including giving birth).

The post recommends squatting three times a day in preparation for childbirth to help strengthen the pelvic floor.  The following website gives detailed instructions on how to do a "proper" squat in the "hunting and gathering mama" way.  Having a nice round rear end is a good thing when it comes to having strong gluteal muscles and subsequently strong pelvic floor muscles.

At this stage of the game, I'm willing to try anything that will make the prospect of childbirth easier.  Squatting doesn't seem like it would hurt so I may start my squatting routine now.  I may also consider (depending on the pain and if I need an epidural) squatting during labor.  I can help strengthen my pelvic floor and allow gravity to help get this baby out.  I guess we'll just have to see how successful this theory really is.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What Shall I Name My Child?

One of the first and probably biggest things that we (my husband and I) are going to do for our child during their first few days of life is to give them a name.  It's such a huge and difficult decision since it is something they will literally have to live with for the rest of their life.  It is something that is not easy to change and is something they cannot control like hair color or eye color.  They're basically stuck with whatever decision that we make.  Generations to come will know my child by that name.  With all that being said, I have only a few basic requirements for a name.

1. It must be relatively easy to spell.  I have a name that can literally be spelled at least 5 different ways.  It is not an usual name but I have spent a lifetime spelling my name for people and correcting them when they get it wrong.  It's funny because when I talk to other people with my name, one of the first questions we ask is, "how do you spell YOUR name?"

2. I want to avoid "popular" or "trendy" names.  I don't want my child to be one of several people in their class while growing up to have the same name.  I grew up with two other people with my name and we always had to differentiate ourselves by adding the first initial of our last name or by using a nickname.  The social security administration recently released a list of the top baby names of 2011.  I, unfortunately, like many of the names on that list but will be avoiding them as well as the top names from the last five years or so.

3. I do not want an exotic name.  I LOVE Hawaiian names and other ethnic names.  However, in my opinion, I think they are best suited for middle names to avoid the problems listed in #1.  It can also get annoying when people mispronounce the name.

4. I don't want to name my child something that would be considered "strange" or "unusual."  There are some pretty crazy names that celebrities have given their children.  I don't want a person to automatically stereotype my child or have it become a part of their identity based on their name alone.  I don't want their name to be their defining characteristic or something that people can't get past.  Giving my child an "unusual" name will make it a topic of conversation throughout their life when meeting new people.  I can see some people wanting their child to be "unique."  However, in this day and age of identity theft and cyberstalking, having an "unusual" name is not cracked up to what it used to be.  Sometimes having a ubiquitous name gives you a better chance at anonymity.  I was horrified to discover how easy it is to find my name on a simple google search.

5. The name must "age" well.  I don't want people to look at the name and say, "that was so 2012!"  I also want it to be something that they won't be embarrassed by when they're older and have to apply for a job.  Can you imagine having to fill out a job application with a name like Apple or Coco?

I think if I had a "common" name like "Jennifer" which was #1 the DECADE I was born in, I may feel differently.  However, since I do not have a name like that, I've come up with these basic parameters.  I have been searching for popular names from the 40's, 50's, 60's, etc.  They were common back then but not common today.  Since they're somewhat "common," the spelling or pronunciation of the name is not much of an issue.  What do you think?  Am I over thinking this or do you have any good suggestions?  We've got to make a decision soon since that is one of the first things they ask you after  the baby is born.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Partial Solar Eclipse

Today, we were lucky to be in the path of a partial solar eclipse.  It was quite a fun experience and brought back lots of memories of the partial solar eclipse that I witnessed on July 11, 1991.  I was not in the path of totality at that time but the sun was about 94% eclipsed from my vantage point.  Since I was not in the path that got to experience a full eclipse, I learned a lot about how to safely view an eclipse so as not to cause permanent eye damage.  To view today's eclipse, in which 84% of the sun was obscured from my location, I made a "solar eclipse viewer" that I learned to make online.

Shoe box solar eclipse viewer
This "solar eclipse viewer" allowed me to view the eclipse without having to look directly at the sun and causing permanent eye damage.

View of the eclipse at it's peak in my area.
Another cool way that I got to view the eclipse was from a neighbor who let me borrow their welding glass.  I had tried to get a pair of those special eclipse viewing glasses but it was too late to order a pair at the time I found out about the eclipse.  I had used them when I viewed the partial eclipse in 1991 and wish I had a pair this time.  The neighbor having welding glass was definitely a nice treat!

My camera's view of the eclipse when held up to the welding glass.
The coolest thing about this eclipse, however, was viewing the shadows that were cast by the leaves on the trees.  The leaves on the trees acted like little "pin hole cameras."  Even my little two-year old thought it was "cool."
View of the shadows cast by the eclipse on asphalt.
My two-year old checking out the shadows.
Baby #2 and I having fun with our shadows.
Viewing the eclipse ended up being a fun family adventure and the entire neighborhood came out to see it.  It is always fun when you don't have to spend money on a good time and hang out with your family and neighbors at the same time.  It's too bad we have to wait until October 23, 2014 for the next partial solar eclipse in our area.  You can check out this link to find the next eclipse in your area.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My 2-Year Old Does Not Watch Television

Another topic that I have been wanting to address is television use by children under 2 and beyond.  I do not let my child watch television and I don't intend to in the near future.  He just turned two and I don't think it is necessary or a good thing to have him "entertained" by a television or other electronic media at his age (he'll have the rest of his life to do that).  I have heard many comments from well-intentioned people telling me that I am "depriving" my child of television when it is "educational."  I do agree that television can be educational but there is a time and place for that.  A child as young as my little one does not need the constant stimulation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their policy statement addressing media use in children in October 2011.  "The AAP discourages media use by children younger than 2 years.  Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure. If a parent is not able to actively play with a child, that child should have solo playtime with an adult nearby. Even for infants as young as 4 months of age, solo play allows a child to think creatively, problem-solve, and accomplish tasks with minimal parent interaction. The parent can also learn something in the process of giving the child an opportunity to entertain himself or herself while remaining nearby."  A television or other electronic media is not a substitute for the interaction between a parent and child.  

A study published in 2007 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that "By 3 months of age, about 40% of children regularly watched television, DVDs, or videos. By 24 months, this proportion rose to 90%. The median age at which regular media exposure was introduced was 9 months. Among those who watched, the average viewing time per day rose from 1 hour per day for children younger than 12 months to more than 1.5 hours per day by 24 months. Parents watched with their children more than half of the time. Parents gave education, entertainment, and babysitting as major reasons for media exposure in their children younger than 2 years."

I find these statistics astounding considering that it has not been proven that watching television or engaging in any form of electronic media in children under 2 has had any educational benefit.  Heavy media use has been "associated with obesity, sleep issues, aggressive behaviors, and attention issues in preschool- and school-aged children."  It may also cause eye strain if a child sits too close to the television (which I know many young children do).   

I admit that my husband and I both have our vices.  He likes to watch his baseball games on television and I am highly addicted to the Internet.  It's not easy to cut ourselves off completely but we make a conscious effort to interact with him rather than rely on electronic media to be a "babysitter."  I think the benefits are well worth it.  When we need him to be "distracted" while we do laundry or cook dinner, he will entertain himself by sitting in a corner with a book or will play by himself with his lego blocks building things and creatively exploring the world around him.  Since he's never known television, he doesn't "need" to have it.  In today's society, I know our time of him being "media-free" is rapidly closing as he gets older.  This will be a challenge to go as long without media exposure for baby #2 but we're going to try.  Our children may not yet know the theme song to Sesame Street or know who Yo Gabba Gabba is but they can figure it out when they're older or they can read about it in a good book.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lactation Cookies

Many women have difficulty with milk supply for a variety of reasons.  Some have difficulty when they go back to work, when their babies transition from breastfeeding to consuming solid foods, or after suffering from an illness.  I, too, have suffered changes in my supply while breastfeeding and have sought out "lactogenic foods" to help boost my supply.  Of all the food and supplement choices out there, I found "lactation cookies" to be the most enjoyable food to eat.  After all, who doesn't like to eat cookies?  I originally posted a recipe that I found online on my facebook page and subsequently friends have been periodically asking me to share the recipe.  I don't know who originated the recipe but the cookies are yummy.  I'm not exactly sure if they work (I tried them with my first baby) but this is a good excuse to eat some cookies.  I can't wait to start baking them and eating them once my second baby is born.  After months of gestational diabetes, this will be a welcome treat!

I have been wondering why certain ingredients are used in these cookies.  The three key ingredients in this recipe are oatmeal, flax seed and brewer's yeast.  There are no scientific studies to support the connection between oatmeal, flax seed and brewer's yeast in increasing milk supply.  However, in many of the recipes that I have found, they all contain these three basic ingredients.  Oatmeal is thought to increase iron, help to relax the mother and decrease cholesterol (which in theory will help to boost milk production).  It's also high in fiber and many farmers will commonly increase fiber in the feed of their animals when they want a boost in milk production.  The flax seed is high in omega-3 fatty acids which are believed to improve milk quality and quantity.  The brewer's yeast is high in vitamin B which is thought to aid in milk production.  Brewer's yeast is found in beer and beer has been used by women to increase milk supply.

I get the brewer's yeast from the bulk bins at Whole Foods, and use Bob's Red Mill flax seed meal that you can get at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's.  All of the other ingredients should be pretty easy to find at your local grocery store.  Hope you enjoy the cookies!

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups oats
1 cup chocolate chips
2-4 tablespoons brewer's yeast

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Mix the flaxseed meal and water and let sit for 3-5 minutes.
3. Beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar well.
4. Add eggs and mix well.
5. Add flaxseed mix and vanilla, beat well.
6. Sift together flour, brewers yeast, baking soda, and salt.
7. Add dry ingredients to butter mix.
8. Stir in oats and chips.
9. Scoop onto baking sheet.
10. Bake for 12 minutes.
11. Let set for a couple minutes then remove from tray.

Here are a few other recipes in case you want to try other recipes...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy Pack Rat Day!

May 17th...  Who would have thought that the perfect "holiday" for me would be today?  The "holiday" that I am speaking of is "National Pack Rat Day."  I am an admitted pack rat.  I don't know how I became a pack rat but I suspect that growing up with a grandmother who lived through the depression and kept everything contributed a bit to that.  I remember one year for Halloween, she made a costume out of "recycled" material and called herself the "garbage queen."

I think that a part of being a pack rat is my "obsession" with recycling.  I always seem to think that something can be reused or repurposed another way.  I hate waste and my recycling bin is always overflowing with things.  Oftentimes, my recycling bin is overflowing while my trash bin has barely anything in it.  I also compost a lot of things rather than have it go to the garbage can.

I am also obsessed with taking pictures.  I'll take pictures of everything and anything as a way to "keep" the memory.  Heck, I think I started this blog just so I can keep track of all of my favorite links and thoughts.  You never know when this stuff will come in handy...

I know that I am a "compulsive hoarder" and freely admit it.  I can't watch the show "Hoarders" because I can easily see myself heading down that road if it weren't for my husband.  My husband is the complete opposite of me.  He throws everything away and is a real minimalist.  I think I had to marry someone like that or I could have easily ended up being featured on that television show.  I take solace knowing that even celebrities like Delta Burke and others suffer from compulsive hoarding.

My only fear about my hoarding is that my children will end up being hoarders.  I think most compulsive hoarders had a family member that was a hoarder.  My husband is determined to not let that happen.  He keeps me in check by cleaning and "purging" frequently.  He purged a bunch of stuff this weekend to make room for the new baby.  I couldn't have done it.  Luckily, today I have an excuse to not throw anything away in honor of this "holiday."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Moving From a Crib to a Bed

Tonight is the first night we've decided to transition our two year old from a crib to a bed.  His little sibling is expected to arrive in about 11 weeks and we need the crib for the new baby.  I have been reading up about this topic and hope the things I have read about will work.  I have read that most babies are ready for the "transition" between 2 and 3 years old.  They also say it is better to do the transition at least 4-8 weeks before the new baby arrives.  This is to ensure the toddler doesn't think the baby is "taking" their crib.  My toddler has figured out how to climb out of the crib even when the mattress is at its lowest point which they say is also a good time to consider switching to a bed.  We placed his bed on the floor (without a box spring mattress under it) with one side against the wall and the other with a bed rail.  We placed the bed in the same location as his crib in the room.

We are using his dad's old childhood bed.  We have told him that this was "a big boy bed" and he seemed excited about it.  He's also slept in a bed before when we were on vacation but that was a couple of months ago.  He did well at that time but he could have just been exhausted from our travels.  I am hoping that with our frequent trips, he has become accustomed to sleeping in different surroundings.  We put all of his blankets on the crib (he sleeps with 5 specific blankets) in the hopes it makes the transition easier.  He looks tiny on the twin mattress and hope he doesn't move around too much overnight.  I also gave him a pillow for the first time which he seems to really like.

He's also been sleeping through the night so I hope that continues with the transition.  Tonight, he fell asleep relatively easily.  I had to sit next to his bed until he fell asleep and kept checking to make sure I was there.  I don't want to make that a habit so any suggestions you have to make the transition easier would be greatly appreciated!  I am hoping he stays asleep through the night and we are not awakened by a toddler in our bedroom.  Wish us luck!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Projectiles While Driving

This post is written as a continuation from my earlier post regarding rear-facing car seats.  With more and more parents choosing to keep their child rear-facing for an extended time, I have been reading a lot of stories of parents using DVD players or mirrors to distract or keep an eye on their child.  I could not be more horrified when I read about these things in cars.  I think these parents are trading one hazard (forward-facing) for another when they have too many "things" in the area around their child's car seat.  I think many parents to do not realize that in an accident, many of these things can become PROJECTILES.

It is interesting to note that there are absolutely no regulations regarding car seat "accessories."  Such accessories can be anything from a mirror to a pillow that you can attach to the car seat or the area around the car seat.  In fact, many car seat manufacturer's strongly recommend against using any "after market" accessories.  Many state in their warranty sections that such accessories may "alter" the performance of the car seat and using such products may "void" their warranty.

It is amazing how a seemingly innocuous object can accelerate and hit the human body with such force as to cause severe injuries.  There was a baby in Colorado whose sippy cup almost "scalped" him in an accident.  In case you're wondering, a 5 pound purse traveling at 35 miles per hour can exert 175 pounds of force.  A woman in British Columbia was killed when her unsecured laptop in the backseat became a projectile in an accident.  Even a cellphone can be a projectile.

I am the worst pack rat.  I love clutter but there is one thing that I try to keep clear and that is the space around my baby's car seat.  In today's society, we are surrounded by many distractions.  I do not feel it is necessary to have to my child constantly entertained with a gadget.  When in the car, he is happy with his blanket and a stuffed animal.  I cringe when I go to the store and see toys and gadgets like DVD players sold to keep children occupied in the car.  Since accidents are so infrequent, it is easy to forget the dangers that everyday items may pose when it is in a car that has been in a accident.

Monday, May 14, 2012

2+ Years & Still Using a Rear-Facing Car Seat

Now that my baby has turned two, I have had people ask me if I am going to continue keeping him rear-facing.  The answer to that is absolutely YES!  A few people thought I was crazy for even allowing my baby to sit rear facing past the age of one.  However, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their recommendations in 2011 advising "parents to keep their toddlers in rear-facing car seats until age 2, or until they reach the height and weight for their seat."  This was updated from their previous policy in 2002 which "cited age 12 months and 20 pounds as a minimum" to keep a child rear facing.

The reason for this change in recommendations was based upon a 2007 study published in the journal Injury Prevention (a publication of the British Medical Journal, and funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) which "showed that children under age 2 are 75 percent less likely to die or be severely injured in a crash if they are riding rear-facing."  When a child rides rear-facing, the force exerted on a toddler's body during a crash is spread "more evenly across the entire body limits the motion of the head reducing the potential for neck injury; and keeps the child more contained within the shell of the child restraint than a forward-facing seat. The benefit of a rear-facing car seat was particularly great, the study found, in side impact crashes."  The following is video of a front-facing car seat crash test.
Front-facing crash test
Rear-facing crash test
A young child, relative to an adult, has a "larger head mass" compared to the body mass.  They also have bones which aren't solidified.  The spine and neck bones may still be soft with lots of cartilage.  As a result, in a front-facing car seat in a front or side impact collision, the "larger" head can snap forward and lead to a condition called "atlanto-occipital dislocation" or "internal decapitation."  While your child's head may not physically separate from its body, the head can separate internally from the spine.  It can happen to children in crashes where the adults can escape without injury.  This can happen to adults as well but those crashes require more force.  In fact, everyone would benefit from rear-facing in an automobile, airplane, train, or any moving vehicle.  I think it's no coincidence that flight attendants sit rear-facing on planes.

I honestly plan on keeping my child rear-facing as long as he meets the height and weight requirements of his car seat.  We bought a car seat with a higher rear facing limit specifically for this reason.  I have had many people tell me that their kids' legs are too cramped when they are rear-facing.  However, in Sweden, it is recommended for children to sit rear facing until the age of 4!  Many Swedish car seats will even support children up to 5 years old and 55 pounds!  Many children just sit with their legs crossed.  They do not look cramped and children like my baby, do not know any different sitting rear-facing.  Also, if I were in an accident that would cause my rear-facing child to suffer a leg injury (which is non-existent), think of what that force would have done to their head and neck!  A study done by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia showed leg injuries in FORWARD facing children due to the impact with the seatback in front of them.  

Even though my baby has been rear-facing since day 1, he still enjoys looking at the other cars on the road and even knows his way home.  He surprised us last week when he got upset when we drove by our usual way home.  He doesn't seem "bored" and is content with his feet up against the seat.  I am also content knowing my baby is sitting in the safest position in the car.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom's out there!  I want to wish very special mother's day to my own mother.  I realized that this is the first mother's day without her mom.  My grandmother passed away last October and I know how much this day means to my mom.

As a mother myself, I've come to discover all of the joy and hard work that goes into raising a child.  It truly is an unconditional love and one in which you would do anything and everything for.  It really isn't a cliche.  I never thought I could love another human being as much as I love my child and soon-to-be children.

My views about motherhood and childrearing has truly been an evolutionary experience.  I set out thinking I would raise my child one way and it is in constant flux.  From my science background, I tend to approach motherhood (and really life in general) from a "guidelines" perspective.  I like to follow the guidelines set forth from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Most of these guidelines are "evidence based" and aren't arbitrarily thought up.  Through these guidelines, I have developed very strong opinions about childrearing.  I understand that these things may not apply to all situations.  However, I feel it becomes the basic groundwork for developing my own parenting style.  I am not a "tiger mom" nor a "French mother" or an "attachment parenting" follower.  I have my own way that I feel works best for my family.  I am lucky in that I live in a society that will afford me the time to develop my own style.  I'm not living in a world where I have to think about where my food is coming from or worry that I will lose my child from some preventable disease.

I have been hearing things like "back in our day" or "why don't you do this instead?" or "your child will be deprived" or "it's educational" or "doing it this way will be easier," etc.  I think part of my rationale for starting this blog is to not necessarily defend what I do but to explain it so that others may understand where I am coming from.  In the coming days, I hope to write more posts describing my ideas on motherhood.

Parenting and being a mother is not an easy job but the rewards are endless.  As with any mother, I hope my children will grow up and appreciate the work and sacrifice their parents have made to make their life better.  Raising children in today's world is a challenge with the abundance of distractions surrounding us.    It really does make becoming a parent yourself see the work and sacrifices our own parents have made.  So, to all the mother's out there, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!  Kick back and enjoy your families.

What happens to the female body during pregnancy...

I write many of my blog posts late at night after my husband and baby are in bed.  I started this blog since I am increasingly experiencing these late nights.  It is giving me something to do without waking the entire house.  As I progress further along in my pregnancy (28+ weeks at the moment), going to sleep is becoming difficult.  I have gestational diabetes and must eat a snack before bed to prevent my blood sugar from becoming too low when I wake up.  It's a vicious cycle.  I have to take medication because my blood sugar gets too high in the morning without it.  My medication makes me prone to having low blood sugar in the middle of the night so I have to eat something to prevent that.  As the placenta gets bigger, the hormones released by the placenta causes my body to become more "insulin resistant."  This means that my body has to produce more insulin (or I have to get it through medication) to keep my blood sugar low.  If my blood sugar is too high then I run the risk of having a large baby.  Giving birth to a 10-pound baby doesn't sound too appealing to me at the moment so I am trying hard to keep my blood sugar low.  I check my blood sugar 4 times a day and strictly monitor the amount of carbohydrates that I eat.  I also keep myself reasonably active.  I am not overweight (I had a pre-pregnancy BMI of 22.5 [18.5-24.9 is considered normal]) and watch what I eat yet I still developed gestational diabetes.  The lifestyle modification is difficult but worth it considering at my 26 week appointment, I had only gained 9 pounds.

Sorry for straying a little bit off the topic at hand but since I eat that snack before bed, I have to remain upright or I get terrible heartburn.  I can't eat my snack too early in the evening or my blood sugar dips too low in the morning.  I stay up late to remain upright (I could never comfortably fall asleep sitting upright) and when I'm ready for bed, it's usually time for me to go to the bathroom.  If it isn't the heartburn, it's the urgency to go to the bathroom that keeps me awake at night.

I found some interesting websites which show how a growing baby may impact a mother's body.  The first is from the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.  I've been to this museum back when I was in college and think it's cool that they're putting more interactive things online.  It is neat to watch your bladder get compressed by the weight of the growing uterus and the intestines and stomach get squished.  This explains the frequent trips to the bathroom and copious amount of TUMS (calcium carbonate) that I must take.  Sadly, my TUMS has become a welcome "treat" in my day since it is the closest to candy that I can get due to the diabetes...  Another link points out the hormone progesterone as being responsible for relaxing the esophageal sphincter which further exacerbates the heartburn.  UGH!  It is also cool to think that I am literally growing a new organ (the placenta) which is responsible for all of these crazy hormones.

Pregnancy is a fascinating experience.  It is amazing that I am growing another human being in my body.  In my previous pregnancy, I focused a lot of the stages of embryonic growth rather than learning about what is happening to my body.  This time around, I am more acutely aware of the changes my body is going through.  It makes you appreciate the fine balance mother nature has achieved in maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

A wonderful bonus of having my parents visiting is the babysitting.  This gave us the ability to watch a real movie in an actual theatre!  We saw the movie, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."  It is a documentary about the life of Jiro Ono.  He is an 85 year old sushi chef in Japan who was awarded 3 Michelin Stars.  He runs a sushi restaurant with only 10 seats in a subway station in Tokyo.  Hardly a place that one would consider to be Michelin "worthy."  

My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Tokyo.  Of all the places that I have been, I would still have to say that Japan was my favorite country to visit.  The culture is amazing and this movie brought back a lot of great memories.  The discipline and cleanliness of Japanese society is reflected throughout this movie.  Jiro still works nearly everyday and is upset when there is a holiday.  He learned from a young age that he needed to work hard.  He was told as a young boy that he "no longer had a home to go home to."  He realized that he didn't want to live on the streets so he made a conscious decision to work hard.  He was a rebellious child but turned his life around.  Today, if a child fails, their parents tell them that they can "return home" if "things do not work out."  He knew he did not have that option so he was determined to succeed.  Throughout the early part of his life (including when his children were young), they did not have a lot of money.  Through hard work and his drive to perfect his "craft," he now owns a restaurant which serves dinner (about 20 pieces of sushi) that is at least 30,000 yen per person (about $375/person).  People call months ahead for a reservation.

It takes 10 years to pass a sushi apprenticeship.  It truly is a "craft" that needs to be honed through years of experience.  You can go to college and medical school and it still wouldn't take you 10 years to complete.  Everything from preparing the rice to frying the eggs takes years of practice to master.  The discipline and attention to detail that Jiro possesses is amazing.  It really makes you think twice about buying "fast food" sushi or going to the all-you-can-eat sushi buffet.  The movie is a really interesting journey into this master's quest for the "perfect" sushi and his desire to pass on his knowledge to his two sons.  

A downside to him working hard was the lack of time he spent with his sons when they were growing up.  He went to work before they woke up and returned after they went to bed at night.  His son even thought he was a stranger when he slept in one morning.  The life of a sushi chef consists of long hours.  You have to wake up early to buy your fish at the fish market and stay up late to serve dinner guests.  A man like him is rare to come across today.  Even he pointed out that most people today want to make the most money in the least amount of time.    

An interesting side story in this movie are the "experts" that help make Jiro successful.  There is the expert in tuna, an expert in shrimp and even an expert in rice.  They all bring their expertise to Jiro to present him with their finest ingredients.  He is the first to acknowledge that he gets all the "credit" when he does the least amount of work (today he mainly puts the sushi together).  Much of the preparation done by his son and apprentices goes unnoticed.  For example, when you eat tako (octopus) in his restaurant, that octopus was vigorously massaged by an apprentice for 40-50 minutes to soften it up. 

A topic that I am happy they mentioned in the movie is the issue of sustainability.  Since Jiro has been doing this for 75 years, he has seen the effects of overfishing on his livelihood.  I'm glad the directors addressed this through Jiro and his son's view of sustainability.  Sushi was a delicacy which was prepared by skilled chefs.  Today, machines make sushi and it can be massed produced.  It really does make you think about quality vs. quantity.       

I do not like raw fish.  Can't stand the stuff really.  However, when I went to Japan, even I would have to admit that the fish is very delicious.  There is something about the care a master sushi chef takes with a fish that brings out the best qualities.  It is something that you won't find at the corner sushi bar here in the US.  I also cannot stand the wasabi here in the US.  I always found it to be a spicy nuisance.  However, in Japan, it was the first time I had fresh wasabi and it was tasty and completely unlike the pasty stuff we get here.  Not only does this movie make me want sushi (which I can't have until this baby is born) but it also makes me want to be more selective with the sushi I do eat.

This movie was not your typical action, blood and gore movie.  However, it was a great date night movie that will leave you talking about the many qualities of Jiro.  I would recommend it if you're looking to watch something different and something to make you think about what you would do to be successful.  

The video below was shot during our honeymoon when we went to the Tsukiji Fish Market and Auction (which was featured in the movie).  It is a place that I highly recommend and is worth waking up at 3 or 4 in the morning to see.   Most of the time if you're coming from the US, you'll be jetlagged and waking up at that hour isn't too difficult.  The fish auction is fun and just walking around the market is an interesting experience.  Vanity Fair published a great article about the fish market.  I've linked it here for your reference.