Tag Archives: mother

How to calm a baby and/or a baby mouse

Saw this article in The New York Times: “In Parents’ Embrace, Infants’ Heart Rate Drops

As I mom, I can attest to the fact that there have been numerous occasions where my children were crying- either in their bed, on the floor, or in the arms of another person- and the moment I took them into my arms, the crying ceased.  It’s often insulting to the person who has been holding them, but that is what they’ve done.

I’ve written before about research showing just how calming a mom can be for children of all ages- even just that mom’s voice, here.

It’s always oddly fascinating to me when research proves what we’ve always known/felt/believed to be true.

Turns out that human babies, and lots of other mammalian babies, respond similarly to being carried by their mother (or perhaps caregiver in the case of humans), by calming down.

Mother Mouse rescuing her pup from a cup.

Image from Esposito et al of the ‘behavioral task of maternal rescue’ wherein Mother Mouse rescues her pups from a cup.  This is similar to humans rescuing an infant from under the coffee table or a toddler from the monkey bars at the park.

A recent paper by Esposito et al entitled “Infant Calming Responses during Maternal Carrying in Humans and Mice” published in Current Biology looked at the responses of babies (of the human and murine variety) as well as dissecting what signals actually contribute to those responses (in the murine babies).

By monitoring babies movements, crying, and heart rates (electrocardiograms) the researchers found that within seconds of being carried (not just held, but picked up and moved around) by their moms, infants’ heart rates declined, their movements slowed, and their crying diminished.  Compared to an infant laying alone in a crib, just holding the infant while the mother was seated did elicit some calming effects, but not as strongly as carrying the infant.  (I’m pretty certain that further study would show this is primarily responsible for many a parent pacing up and down the aisles of an airplane to placate a cranky baby)

The same happens to mice, and since we can do experiments on mice that we can’t on babies, researchers looked further into the murine response to see how it worked.

Turns out, mice babies cry too (Ultrasonic Vocalizations, USVs).  Just like humans, when a mouse mom carries her pup, it calms down.  In a mouse, that means the pup stops crying/making USVs, adopts a compact posture (drawing up its hind legs and being still), and its heart rate drops.  The researchers used several different techniques to figure out what cues were causing these behaviors and figured out that it was a combination of actually feeling the mother grasping its skin and proprioception (basically sensing that it is being carried).

It’s fascinating to me how behaviors and responses are shared between species. It also reminds me how primal newborns are.

However, the paper had one CRITICAL flaw.  MAJOR.  As in I don’t know how the reviewers and editor missed it.

See here:

A scientific understanding of this physiological infant response could prevent parents from overreacting to infant crying. Such understanding would be beneficial to parents by reducing frustration, because unsoothable crying is a major risk factor for child abuse [26]. Source.

To this I say, “HAHAHAHA!  Are any of you even parents?!  At 3 am when you haven’t gotten any sleep and your kid just WILL NOT SHUT UP- does the knowledge that “the identified effects of carrying on parasympathetic activation and cry reduction were significant and robust” make one damn bit of difference?!*  I think not.

If I had been the reviewer, I might have responded, “If you want those two sentences in the paper, you gotta include a figure on whether that knowledge actually mattered to any parent in the dead of night with a colicky infant.”

 

 

*I’m only partly joking.  When my kids were infants and being difficult/impossible to soothe, I did remind myself that they weren’t intentionally trying to piss me off.  I suppose this understanding of what soothes them might similarly serve as a reminder that babies aren’t out to get you on a personal level at 3am by refusing to sleep and/or let you stop pacing around and/or nursing them.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under #scimom, Mother, Scientist, You might be a #scimom if

A day in the life of a Scientist/Mother (#SciMom)

Curious what a typical day is like for a working scientist and mother (SciMom)?  This is a run-down of a typical Thursday for me.

__________________________________________________________

The Short Version:

Morning at home- wake, nurse Nemo, get Mabel washed up and dressed, get ready for work, kiss hubby and baby, drop Mabel at preschool, and head off to work.

Day at work- try to cure cancer, work on poster for upcoming national meeting, lunch meeting, rush home.

Evening at home- nurse baby, cook dinner, get Mabel ready for bed while Mac takes care of Nemo, read bedtime stories, sing lullabies, say prayers, tuck in Mabel, nurse Nemo, tuck in Nemo, tuck Mabel in again, and again, and again until she’s finally asleep, take 5 min for myself, go to bed.

The Long Version:

This is a typical Thursday.  Wednesdays and Thursdays are my meeting-heavy days.

Sometime between 6 and 7am:  Nemo wakes, bring him into bed and nurse.

7am: Alarm goes off, Mabel storms in (since she has one of these and isn’t technically allowed out of bed until it turns green)

7:40am:  Everyone out of bed.  Get Mabel washed up and dressed for school while Nemo plays.

Playing instead of getting ready!

8am:  Get myself ready for work while Mac gives Mabel and Nemo breakfast.

8:30am:  Head out the door.

8:45am:  Drop Mabel at preschool and head to work (as a scientist at a biotech/pharma company).

9:15am:  Drive around the parking lot praying that someone left at a random time and there is a convenient parking spot, end up parking in the boondocks.

9:20am:  Sit in the car and put on my makeup (crucial, see here).

9:30am:  Sit down at my desk.  Turn on computer.  Check emails, respond to emails, read abstracts from journal alerts, etc.  If there’s time, check my personal email, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.  Check in with my technician regarding her experiments for that day. Grab a cup of coffee (there is never enough coffee).

10am:  Tumor Scientist Meeting- all the Oncology Department’s scientists meeting with our VP of research.  Mostly these meetings cover research topics in a lab meeting style, and we all present several times a year.  Other times these are administrative, discussing space utilization, equipment purchases, reports on interesting meetings, etc.

11:30am:  (as long as my 10am meeting doesn’t run until noon) Pump.  I’m still nursing Nemo, and I was nursing Mabel when I started this job.  Thankfully there is a well-equiped Nursing Mother’s Room right around the corner from my office.

12:15pm:  Department Meeting- this is a standing lunch meeting for anyone/everyone doing oncology-related research to present their research.  Scientists and technical staff take turns presenting once a year.  It’s a great opportunity to learn what other departments are working on, and get a chance to present to people you wouldn’t otherwise get to hear from.

1:30pm:  Back to my office- read papers, analyze data, plan experiments, spend time in the lab, meet with my technician to discuss results and upcoming data, work on presentations, respond to emails.*

3pm:  Pump again.

3:30pm:  Coffee- either with a colleague in the kitchen, or back at my desk (If it’s at my desk, I might read non-science news, check personal email, Facebook, etc.).  Get some more work done*

5pm:  Start thinking about leaving.  Save documents, print stuff, wash my coffee cup, shut down equipment, etc.  I  don’t actually get in my car to leave until 5:20pm or later.

5:45pm:  Get home.  Wash hands.  Unpack any perishables (uneaten lunch, pumped milk, etc.), nurse Nemo while Mabel climbs on me and demands attention and Mac walks the dog (definitely looking forward to Spring and the time change, which means it’s light enough and warm enough for us to walk as a family).

6:15pm:  Start making dinner.

6:45pm:  Eat dinner.

7:15pm:  Take Mabel upstairs to get ready for bed while Nemo plays and Mac does the kitchen cleanup.

7:30pm:  Read bedtime stories with Mabel.

Bedtime stories.

7:50pm:  Sing songs (under the stars thanks to Santa) with Mabel and then tuck her in for the night.

8pm:  Nurse Nemo for as long as he stays awake.  Sometimes sit holding him for an hour just because it’s the only time of day I get to be with him without Mabel competing for my attention, and because I really miss holding him all day.

8:30pm:  Shower and get mostly ready for bed.

9pm:  Back downstairs for some time on the computer, in front of the TV, with a cup of coffee, do laundry, other chores, maybe check work emails.  Let the dog out one last time.

10:30/11pm:  Brush teeth and get to bed.  Mac and I head to bed anywhere from 10pm to midnight.  We really try to be in bed by around 10:30pm, but that seems to rarely happen.  Once in bed, we’ll read (an actual book) or spend some time on our phones (playing each other in Words with Friends, checking email, Facebook, etc.), turn them off and then have some actual conversation that isn’t interrupted by little kids.

11pm/12am:  Lights out.

12am to 7am:  Get woken up at the whims of our children for pacifiers, trips to the potty, dirty diapers, runny noses, lost blankets, snuggles, etc.  Sometimes the dog gets in on the action too and barks at a random sound or insists on being let out at 3am.  It’s never enough sleep, and it’s never uninterrupted.  Potty training and a little brother (Nemo is in our room in a pack n’ play, so I think she feels she’s missing out being in her own room) have really interfered with Mabel’s sleep- she rarely stays in her bed all night.

__________________________________________________________________

So, that’s a typical Thursday.  Some evenings I head out for book club or a Mom’s Night Out, but those are only once or twice a month.  It’s never enough time, it seems.  I miss my kids desperately when I’m at work, and just can’t seem to get enough of them in the evenings.  Sometimes the bedtime routine runs long and bedtime is later and I enjoy it because it means more time with them (other times I don’t enjoy it because I need 5 minutes to myself!).

So, that’s my Thursday- a day in the life a SciMom.

The big question- have I achieved work-life balance?  The answer- it feels like it, for three reasons.

One, most days I don’t get much time with my kids; however, since they are home with Mac, I feel like they are getting all the love, attention, and nurturing they need (or at least as much as I could give them if I were the one at home).  If they were in daycare from 8:30am to 5:30pm, I’m not sure I would feel the same.

Two, Mac takes care of so much during the weekdays, that I can really focus on quality family time when I’m not at work. I know if Mac worked full-time outside the home it would mean our evenings and weekends would be swamped with errands and chores and oil changes and all the other business of life.

Three, my work is pretty flexible (both my company and my supervisor).  There are times I have to go in early or stay late, take work home, etc, but there have been more times I’ve worked from home (in bad weather), used flex time (when Mac has an on-site job), left early (for doctor’s appointments, swim class, or long weekends), or come in late (TThF when I drop Mabel at preschool).  Combine that with my company’s family-friendly events and parties several times a year that means Mac and the kids can come visit me at work, and plenty of paid holidays (hello- week off between Christmas and New Years!!) and it’s not bad.  Have I missed precious moments with my kids to be at work?  Yes.  Was it hard to be away?  Yes.  Is it unavoidable?  Yes.  Is it frequent?  Thankfully, no.  So it feels balanced.

The day to day can seem harried and rushed, but over the long-term, it feels like it’s working out.  I’m lucky to be able to have a job I enjoy, a family I love, and a husband who loves me.

_______________________________________

*As I mentioned above, Thursdays are meeting-heavy, with two standing meetings.  I generally don’t plan experiments for Thursdays for that reason.  When I’m not in meetings (seminars, lab meetings, working groups, etc.), the main tasks that occupy my time are: read papers, analyze data, plan experiments, spend time in the lab, meet with my technician to discuss results and upcoming experiments, work on presentations, respond to emails, attend online seminars, administrative tasks (like approve time cards and purchase requisitions, complete online mandatory trainings, etc.).

My company has an open-door culture.  Unless people have to take a phone call or have a one-on-one meeting, doors are always open and people are always free to be interrupted.  Most of the time this is good, but sometimes it can make it hard to get stuff done (I never have more people come to my office than when I’m attending an online seminar!).  So I’m routinely interrupted by my technician who has a question or needs a hand with something in the lab or my supervisor who has something to tell me.

1 Comment

Filed under #scimom, breastfeeding, Mabel, Mother, Nemo, Scientist, Wife, You might be a #scimom if

Toronto as a Scientist, Wife, and Mother

In the “About” section of my blog I say, “My titles include Scientist, Wife, and Mother.”  (And yes, I will continue to use the Oxford comma– I don’t care what anyone says!)

I recently took a trip to Toronto to attend the International Society for Stem Cell Research 9th Annual Meeting.

See the CN Tower (aka La Tour CN) peeking out behind the buildings?

It was my first major conference since moving from an academic post-doc to an industrial scientist position.  It was my first time taking a trip,  just my husband and I,  since we became a family of three  almost 18 months ago.  It was the first time I’d been away (and the furthest I’d been) from my daughter for more than just an overnight since she was born.

I feel like this trip really brought home for me how those titles encompass different, maybe at times conflicting, points of view.  The “Scientist” was there in a professional capacity to learn.  The “Wife” was there on her first trip alone with her husband since the birth of their first child.  The “Mom” was ambivalent about enjoying the trip and missing her daughter.

In the coming week I hope to expand on the experience from each of these perspectives.  Overall I think it was a positive experience- I learned a lot as a scientist, a wife, and a mom.

Do you have a similar predicament?  Are there aspects of your life that conflict with each other?  How do you resolve them?

8 Comments

Filed under Mother, Scientist, Wife