Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Clinically proven to help babies and toddlers get a better night’s sleep

A new Johnson and Johnson marketing campaign claims that their “3-step night time routine is clinically proven to help babies and toddlers get a better night’s sleep”  I keep hearing it on the radio and felt compelled to investigate.

Step One: Bathe baby with Johnson and Johnson Bedtime Bath
Step Two: Massage baby with Johnson and Johnson Bedtime Lotion
Step Three: Quiet time

We all know what a difference a good bedtime routine can make with babies, toddlers and children.  In fact, bath + massage + quiet time is an excellent bedtime routine.  But what about the need for including Johnson and Johnson Bedtime products?   I wanted to know more about this clinical trial.

I called Johnson and Johnson USA and the customer service agent I spoke to told me that I had to get the information from Johnson and Johnson Canada. After being on hold for 15 minutes, an American answered the Johnson and Johnson Canada line.  I’m on hold again while he attempts to get me the information I asked for.

While on hold, I am researching these two Johnson and Johnson products on Skin Deep. The Skin Deep website endeavours to gather information about a variety of personal care products and rates them for toxicity.  For the sake of simplicity, a low number is good and a high number is bad.  In our family, we aim for a rating of 0-2 on our personal care products.

Johnson and Johnson Bedtime Bath is listed as a 4, so a moderate hazard. A closer look shows ‘allergies and immunotoxicity’ to be the main issue.  I should note that this product is also tagged as having limited data.  In other words, Skin Deep gave it a rating but the rating would be more accurate if they had more data.  Johnsons and Johnson Bedtime Lotion scored a 5, so is considered slightly more of a hazard than the bedtime bath.

In comparison, a warm bath with one drop of essential lavender oil mixed with a tablespoon of grape seed oil has a toxicity rating of 0 and a massage using grape seed oil also has a toxicity rating of 0.  I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that at the end of the day, the natural choice would also save money. A bottle of essential lavender oil will set you back about $10 and last you about a year.  Grape seed oil costs around $5per 750ml and stays fresh for about 6 months.  I should add that both these effective products have multiple uses and can be purcahsed at most grocery stores.

35 minutes later…news for Johnson and Johnson.  No one on their customer service team can tell me which clinical study is being referred to the Johnson and Johnson 3-step night time routine marketing campaign.  After much insistence, I got them to open a file for my query and I am supposed to hear back within 5 business days.  I’ll keep you posted.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about my motivation: I am a certified infant massage instructor and I teach fitness classes for new moms.  I am also a strong supporter of informed choice.  New parents need to know how to get information about baby care products so that they can make informed choices.   I hope that this post will encourage parents to check out www.skindeep.org and question that they are putting on their baby’s skin.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Diastasis Recti (Abdominal Separation)

Diastasis Recti (DR), often called abdominal separation, occurs in up to 50% of pregnancies in the 3rd trimester.  It is when there is stretching of the fascia (Linea Alba) that runs vertically between your right and left rectus abdominis muscles. DR usually occurs in the third trimester when your growing uterus puts the most strain on your abdominal muscles. 

DR does not usually cause pain locally, but it may lead to back pain, pelvis pain, and pelvic floor dysfunction. The good news is that it can usually be rehabilitated postpartum.


How do I know if I have it?
We recommend asking your healthcare provider to check for you.  She will ask you to lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  You will raise your shoulders off the ground like you are doing an abdominal curl.  She’ll then use her fingers to feel for both sides of your rectus abdominis and measure the gap in between. A gap of 3cm+ at the umbilicus or 1cm+ above or below the umbilicus, is considered Diastasis Recti.

What causes it?
DR in pregnancy is caused by increasing pressure on the abdominal wall.  Why do some women have DR and others do not?  Postulated reasons include: genetics, pregnancy hormones and rapid/excessive abdominal growth.  It is important to note that having a strong core does not cause DR.  Some practitioners believe that a strong core may actually prevent DR.

If you are pregnant, and you DO NOT have DR
Continue doing exercises for all your core muscles: pelvic floor, transverses abdominals, erector spinae, rectus abdominals and obliques.  There are many benefits to a strong cure during pregnancy.

Please note: If you are 16+ weeks pregnant, supine (lying on your back) exercises should be done on an incline (head higher than your lower body).  This is to avoid putting too much pressure on the vena cava which may cause dizziness.


If you are pregnant and you have DR 
1. Avoid abdominal exercises that put strain on the rectus abdominis.  Ex. Abdominal curls, v-sits, boats and front planks.
2. Focus on pelvic floor and transverses abdominal exercises to prevent discomforts and prepare for post partum recovery. Pelvic floor lifts (Kegels) and baby hugs are good choices.
3. Choose mindful movement strategies.  Ex. When laying down, roll over onto your side and use your chest and arm muscles to bring yourself to sitting.
4. Prioritize your mind-core connection during pregnancy so that you will not be starting from scratch post partum.

If you think you have DR post partum
Ask your healthcare provider to assess your separation at your postpartum visit(s).   If you have DR, ask your healthcare provider or certified pre and postnatal fitness specialist for guidance in healing your separation. 

If your abdominal separation persists, ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a physiotherapist who is specializes in postpartum health.  Your local Fit 4 Two instructor can also give you a list of suitable physiotherapists.

It is important to note that doing exercises which engage your rectus abdominal muscles (e.g. abdominal curls), may worsen DR and lead to other problems.  Take the time to get strong from the inside out. 

All Fit 4 Two prenatal fitness classes are safe for women with abdominal separation.  The best choices for rehabilitating abdominal separation postpartum are the Fit 4 Two Tummies 4 Mommies Workshop or Tummies 4 Mommies Series.  All Fit 4 Two postnatal fitness classes are safe for women with abdominal separation except our boot camp series.




Finding it difficult to stay disciplined with your pelvic floor exercises on your own? Feeling like you need more instruction and cues? You're in luck...there's an app for that! Download the Fit 4 Two-approved Pelvic Floor Trainer App and enjoy both visual and audio routines at your fingertips.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why Meal Planning Works and How to Get Started

Why Meal Planning Works



Meal Planning Saves Time
No more wasting time wondering what you are going to make for dinner, making daily trips to the market etc.  A good meal plan should mean just one main weekly shop and one quick trip mid week to top up your supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Meal Planning Saves Money
When we don't meal plan we end up eating out more, grabbing expensive snacks on the go and doing multiple grocery runs.  Because we don't have a plan, we end up buying even more impulse items at the store.  It is a viscous cycle.

Meal Planning = Weight Loss/Maintenance
When you meal plan, you are not likely to 'plan' an unhealthy meal.  Instead you will be thinking about food groups, variety and nutrition.  You are less likely to eat high fat/sugar convenience snacks.  You are less likely skip meals and overeat at night.  You are less likely to order in.  You are less likely to eat dinner late at night.  You get the idea.

Planned Meals Taste Better
They do.  They really, really do.  When you take the time and effort to plan your meal and are successful achieving your goals… everything tastes better. 

Meal Planning Decreases Stress (especially on the home front)
Most couples, especially couples with children, argue about ‘what’s for dinner?’ several days a week.  Life is to short.

How to Get Started

1.      Is your partner on board?  If yes, fantastic.  If no, let it go and carry on.  Life is short and you matter.

2.      Choose one day a week to do your meal planning and stick to it.  Make sure you can go grocery shopping the same or the next day.  If possible, alternate who shops each week. 

3.      If your kids are old enough, include them in the meal planning.  Most kid’s eating habits improve when they are part of the decision making process.

4.      To save even more time, try a cook book with weekly dinner recipes and accompanying shopping lists.  I like ‘Cooking for the Rushed’.

5.      Post your meal plan where everyone can see it and assign responsibilities.  Ex. She cooks.  He cleans up. 

6.      Talk about it.  Yes, it is posted for all to see but don’t assume everyone is reading it.  Talk about the next day’s meal plan the night before and mention it again in the morning.  Prevent conflict and foster positive results.

7.      Don’t give up if you ‘mess up’.  Just re-evaluate the plan for the week and keep on trucking.

8. Tell others that you are meal planning.  You can expect plenty of encouragement.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Can Exercising Together Improve Your Marriage?

Absolutely.  Here’s how.

Happiness – Exercise improves mood.  This is a scientific fact.   Do you enjoy your partner’s company more when you are happy or sad?  Does your partner appear more attractive to you when you are feeling up for feeling down?  Now imagine that both you and your partner have the opportunity to feel happy and motivated at the same time.

Intimacy – From what my clients tell me, three common libido killers are stress, fatigue and body image.  Want a cheap, fast fix with no negative side effects?  Exercise!  An active lifestyle reduces stress, increases energy and makes us feel better about our bodies.

Couple Time – If you have ever read a book about successful relationships, they’ll tell you that you MUST find something to enjoy with your partner that is not related to your kids.  I recognize that you are busy and tired…and that your kids need you…so why not feed two (maybe three or four) birds with one hand.  Find a physical activity that you both truly enjoy and make it a habit.  Make it something that you cannot live without.  A non-negotiable.   Added bonus?  Your kids will come to admire you for it.

A Common Goal – Many frustrated couples site having no clear and common goals as a major reason for relationship dissatisfaction.  Whether your relationship is strong or needs some work, having a common goal may make you feel more connected to your partner.  Tip: When setting a fitness goal together, make it a SMART goal.  Sustainable.  Measurable.  Attainable.  Realistic.  Timely.  Ex. We are going to work with our trainer every Saturday at 10am.

Putting Theory into Action – If you are unsure how your partner will react to this idea, maybe send them this or a similar article to read ahead of time.  Then schedule a time to discuss your plan.  Choose a time when you are not typically tired or distracted. Talking ‘after the kids go down’ doesn’t work for most couples.  Make a lunch date, even if that means calling in a favour or paying a sitter. Brainstorm activities that you enjoy and try to find a common ground.  If you cannot seem to find an activity that you both enjoy, make a compromise.  For example, if you enjoy long power walks and he prefers cycling, alternate activities.  This gesture communicates love and respect.  Once you choose your activity, SCHEDULE it in.  If there are obstacles, find ways to overcome them.  Your marriage is worth it.

Worth Mentioning – It is not uncommon for one person in a relationship to suggest a ‘group’ activity like hiking with another couple.  This can make the other person feel frustrated or even rejected.  If this happens, try not to take it personally.  Instead, remind your partner that your goal right now is to spend time as a couple.  Perhaps offer to revisit the idea after your have established your partner exercise routine.

Give it a try and report back.  Let me know how it goes.

(Original article in the momcafe's February Newsletter)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Inhale or Exhale? Breathing Through Pelvic Floor Exercises


How do you breathe when you do kegels?  Do you inhale as you lift or exhale as you lift?  The good news is that there is no wrong answer.

There are many reasons why we invest time and energy into our pelvic floors during and after pregnancy.  How you breathe, depends on your purpose.

If you purpose is to strengthen your pelvic floor in order to avoid back pain, reduce incontinence, reduce your chances of tearing/having an episiotomy and avoid prolapsed organs, then you want to exhale as you engage.

Why? Three Reasons. 

Reason #1: Think about strength training in general.  You inhale to prepare and you exhale as you perform the hard part.  Well, your pelvic floor is a sling of muscles too.  Using your breath in this way will give you more power to lift, hold and therefore strengthen your pelvic floor muscles.  Remember, toned pelvic floor muscles are more elastic so are better able to stretch out of the way as baby is born.  All things being equal, toned pelvic floor muscles = less chance of tearing or need for an episiotomy. 

Reason #2: If you are currently 3+ months pregnant, let me ask you this… Do you have extra space in your abdomen right now?  I’m guessing the answer is ‘no’.  As your uterus grows is displaces all of your other organs and puts excess stress on your pelvic floor, blood vessels, nerves and more.  When you inhale your lungs fill with oxygen and your diaphragm pushes downwards. Trying to effectively lift your pelvic floor while you have significantly less space and your respiratory system is sending pressure downwards is counter productive.   

Reason #3: It promotes healthy breathing.  Our bodies naturally expand as we inhale and contracts as we exhale.  Watch a baby breathe.  Having healthy breathing patterns is integral to your health and is a fantastic tool for dealing with the sensations of labour as well as the stress of being a new parent.

If your purpose is to learn how to/practice relaxing your pelvic floor and perineum for the pushing stage of labour, then you want to add to your core training routine.  Let’s explore inhaling as you engage and exhaling as you relax.

Why? Two Reasons.

Reason #1: Have you ever been to a yoga class and they ask you to tense one muscle group and then release it.  Try it.  Tense your glutes for 5-10 second and then release.  What do you notice about your breath.  You probably inhaled briskly then held you breathe as you tensed and then exhaled thankfully as you relaxed.  Just as releasing tensions allows us to breathe, breathing allows us to release tension.  This can be a fantastic labour preparation tool.   

Reasons #2: Women with backgrounds in dance, gymnastics, horse back riding, waitressing, piano etc have often spent their whole lives with their pelvic floor and transverse abdominis muscles on all the time.  Some of these women find it easier to relax their pelvic floor if they are exhaling as they relax. 

My 2 Cents
During your 1st and 2nd trimesters, focus on engaging on the exhale.  This might take some time to learn but will serve your body well.  As you progress into your third trimester, continue with engaging on the exhale but giving more attention to the relaxation phase.  Honour the release as much as the lift.  Begin adding (not replacing) some pelvic floor work where you engage on the inhale and relax on the exhale.  Again, focus more on the relaxation stage.  Notice what works best for you when it comes to releasing your pelvic floor and softening your perineum.  Let this body awareness empower you during your childbirth experience.


Finding it difficult to stay disciplined with your pelvic floor exercises on your own? Feeling like you need more instruction and cues? You're in luck...there's an app for that! Download the mom-approved Pelvic Floor Trainer App and enjoy both visual and audio routines at your fingertips. 




Ready to try a Fit 4 Two class?  Contact your local Fit 4 Two Instructor for a pass to try a FREE class.