Have you or your partner just learned that you are expecting? Congratulations! Perhaps you are just thinking about starting a family. Maybe you have decided to adopt a child or use a surrogate. Whatever your situation, we hope the information and resources on this page will be helpful to you as you embark on the journey of parenthood.
Are you ready to start a family? Below are a few things to consider before becoming pregnant or deciding to adopt.
The best time to start eating right and exercising regularly is before you get pregnant or decide to adopt. A mother’s physical health directly affects her baby, both in the womb and after birth. If you are under or overweight, it is best to get your weight under control before trying to conceive. Not only can this make it easier to get pregnant, but it can also help your pregnancy to progress more smoothly and with fewer complications. Dads, partners, and adoptive parents: this advice applies to you, too! Even if you will not physically carry the child, committing to a healthy and active lifestyle now will help you to pass along healthy habits to your children later. This will benefit them their entire lives. Find helpful information on maintaining a healthy diet and local resources for dietitians and nutrition counseling here. If you are ready to make a commitment to becoming physically active, a low-cost option is a membership to Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation’s rec centers. The Department of Parks and Recreation offers a variety of other affordable fitness and wellness options to Virginia Beach residents.
If you suffer from any diseases or chronic conditions, it is important to address them prior to starting a family. These include physical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. There may be certain precautions you will need to take throughout pregnancy. Your doctor or healthcare professional can help you develop an action plan to ensure the healthiest possible pregnancy for you and your baby. If you plan to adopt, you’ll want to be able to be present and healthy for your children; it is just as important for dads and adoptive parents to take care of your physical and mental health needs prior to and after starting your family.
Evaluate your and your partner’s finances to ensure you have the ability to financially support a growing family. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a middle-income family will spend over $285,000 raising a child from birth through age 17! If you or your partner has significant debt, is unemployed, or is otherwise facing financial crisis, you may want to consider getting your finances in order prior to starting a family. If you do decide that the time is right, consider medical costs that will come with pregnancy and delivery, and plan accordingly. Do you have insurance? If not, your labor and delivery alone could end up costing you between $9,000 and $15,000. There are many low-cost health insurance providers for those who qualify, however. Learn more about these options here. (link to page: “VA Premier, FAMIS, Health Dept.) … We also like the “Cost of Raising a Child Calculator,” provided by Babycenter.com. This calculator can give you a rough estimate of how much you can anticipate to spend throughout your child’s lifetime.
Although pregnancy is typically thought of as lasting 40 weeks, or about 9 months, the beginning of your pregnancy is actually dated from the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP). Conception occurs an average of 14 days later, meaning that you are really only truly pregnant for about 38 weeks. Pregnancy is divided into three broad time-frames, or trimesters. The first trimester includes Weeks 1-13, the second trimester lasts from Weeks 14-27, and the third trimester – which can often feel like the longest – lasts from Weeks 28-40. Each trimester comes with its own symptoms and recommendations for prenatal care.
If this is your first pregnancy, you may be wondering about symptoms, possible complications, and what to expect from your office visits. If you’re like most women, you also have some questions and maybe even fears about what labor and delivery will be like or how you’ll succeed as a parent. This is completely normal! Your doctor, midwife, or other healthcare professional is there to help you every step along the way. That is why it is so important to begin your prenatal care the moment you learn you are pregnant. You may also wish to seek out other moms and dads who have been down this road. Remember that you are not alone. Fortunately, we live in an area where there are many opportunities to connect with other new or expectant parents in childbirth or preparation classes, support groups, and “meet-ups.” Below, we list some favorite books, websites, local support groups, and other resources to assist you along this exciting journey.
To track your pregnancy, learn what to expect week by week, and for general pregnancy questions and tips, we like:
Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby
It is extremely important to receive good prenatal care throughout your entire pregnancy. Schedule a visit to your healthcare provider the moment you learn or suspect you are pregnant. Remember that every woman and every pregnancy is different. Your doctor or midwife is the best person to give you the most accurate and complete information relevant to your specific situation. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of local OB/GYN and midwifery practices.
If you learned of your pregnancy through a home pregnancy test, you can start taking measures even before your first visit to your doctor to have the healthiest pregnancy possible. Here are some tips:
First, start taking a daily prenatal vitamin right away. Prenatal vitamins can be purchased over-the-counter at most pharmacies and even grocery stores. A good prenatal vitamin includes at least 600 mg of folic acid; many obstetricians recommend vitamins with 1,000 mg of folic acid to account for the possibility of multiples (i.e., twins, triplets). Folic acid is especially important in the first weeks and months of your pregnancy to help prevent birth defects. For more information on the importance of folic acid before and during pregnancy, visit March of Dimes.
In addition to taking a daily prenatal vitamin, eating a healthy diet is another important part of taking care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy. A good pregnancy diet is similar to a healthy diet anytime, but you will have increased caloric and nutritional needs to pay special attention to during this time. There are many great books and websites available to help you plan a diet that is rich in the nutrients you both need. If you have special dietary concerns or a history of an eating disorder, it can be helpful to seek professional advice from a registered dietitian or nutritional counselor. Find some of our favorite resources for healthy eating during pregnancy, as well as information on local dietitians and nutritional counselors.
It is also important to address any diseases or chronic conditions from which you may suffer, as these can pose increased risks to your unborn baby if not properly treated. These include physical conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol, and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Also discuss any health concerns with your healthcare provider so he or she can include them in your personal prenatal care treatment plan.
If you currently smoke, one of the best things you can do for your unborn baby is to quit. The effects of smoking during pregnancy can be more harmful than you might think. Even more dangerous to your unborn baby is using alcohol or illegal or prescription drugs during pregnancy. If you currently use drugs or have (or suspect you have) a problem with alcohol, seek help right away. Find local resources to help you quit smoking or get help for drug or substance abuse here.
If you are otherwise healthy, regular exercise is generally recommended for pregnant women, provided they follow certain guidelines. It is important to stay well-hydrated, avoid exercising to exhaustion, and stop exercising if you feel dizzy, short-of-breath, or experience any type of abdominal pain. Prenatal yoga, swimming, and walking are excellent choices for most pregnant. Always talk to your healthcare provider about your pregnancy exercise regimen and ask for advice on the best types of exercise as your pregnancy progresses.
Are you expecting? If you or your partner is pregnant, you’re getting ready to adopt, or you’ve recently become a new mom or dad, we want to help. Having a baby is an extraordinary life experience – one that can be joyous as well as complicated. Here are a few tips to help you along the way:
Any sleep-deprived parent who has accidentally left her car keys in the refrigerator can easily understand the relationship between adequate sleep and brain function. It is the same for your newborn. Proper sleep and brain development go hand-in-hand. This is one reason for the phrase, “Never wake a sleeping baby.” Newborns’ and infants’ changing sleep patterns can be both confusing and frustrating for many parents, especially those trying to figure it out for the first time. We offer some guidelines for how much sleep your child needs and ways to ensure he or she gets it.
As always, the advice on these pages is not intended to replace that of your child’s doctor. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s sleep or need additional strategies for getting your child to sleep, always consult your child’s pediatrician.
Choosing whether to breastfeed or formula-feed your baby is a choice only you and your partner can make. Because of its nutritional advantages of breast milk over formula and added health benefits for both Mom and Baby, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of a child’s life, and continuing to offer breast milk up to one year or longer. However, parents who cannot or choose not to breastfeed need not worry or feel guilty. Formula offers an excellent alternative to breast milk and will provide all the nutrition and calories your baby needs to grow and thrive. Your child’s pediatrician can advise you on how much breast milk or formula your baby needs as he or she grows. The pediatrician will also track your baby’s growth, so be sure to schedule and keep all recommended well-child visits. A healthy infant should see his/her pediatrician within 2-3 days of leaving the hospital, and at one month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months of age.
Whether your child drinks breast milk or formula, this is all he or she needs for the first several months. Newborns are not ready for solid foods of any kind, and should not be served cow’s milk, juice, water, or any other type of liquid (unless recommended by your pediatrician). Many parents make the mistake of introducing solids too early, which can increase your child’s risk of childhood and adult obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to wait until a child is about 6 months of age before introducing solid foods.
There’s just no way around it: newborns cry. Healthy babies may cry up to 3 hours a day at various times. Crying often peaks in intensity around 6 weeks of age. While this seemingly endless crying can be a source of frustration and anxiety for parents, it is your baby’s only way to let you know she is hungry, wet, uncomfortable, lonely, or in need of physical affection. Try to think of your baby’s cries as her way of “talking” to you – within several weeks of birth, you may find that you can distinguish among your baby’s various cries and respond more and more quickly to her needs and wants. You may also find that your newborn is more likely to be fussy at specific times of the day; for many babies, this is in the evening hours, any time from about 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. to midnight. For this reason, this time of day is often referred to as the “witching hour” for newborns and young babies. If your baby tends to get fussy around the same time each day, try to arrange to have the hands-on support of a spouse, partner, family member, or friend to help you care for your baby during this time period. If this is not possible and you find yourself becoming overly anxious or frustrated by your baby’s crying, lay him down gently in his crib (making sure to first remove any stuffed animals, blankets, or other objects) and leave the room for 10 or 15 minutes. Your baby will not suffer long-term from giving yourself this little break, and it can help you to regain your composure and positive attitude. It is better much to leave your baby in a safe place for a few minutes than to become frustrated to the point of shaking or otherwise harming your baby.
Colic is a unique form of crying that affects up to 20%, or 1 in 5 of all newborn babies. While no one knows the exact causes of colic, it may be partly due to gastrointestinal distress, an unusual sensitivity to stimulation, or an immature central nervous system. In some cases, colic can signal a serious medical problem. The generally-accepted definition of a baby with colic is one who cannot self-soothe. It typically begins between a baby’s second and fourth weeks of life and usually (but not always) subsides by the child’s third month. Colic is characterized by periods of intense crying that last three hours or more at one time. Babies with colic are very difficult – and, at times, impossible – to console. A colicky baby’s cries are often high-pitched, her face may become flushed or red from the intensity of the crying, and her posture often changes. You may notice that your baby’s abdominal muscles are tensed, her fists are clenched, and her legs are curled up during the crying episodes. If you are concerned about the amount or intensity of your baby’s crying, always talk to your pediatrician.
Whether your baby has regular crying or colic, try your best to remain calm and loving toward your baby. Your baby is not trying to annoy or anger you; he simply has no other way to express himself. Remember it is OK to give yourself breaks for several minutes at a time, as long as your baby is in a safe place, such as his crib. Never shake your baby, no matter how frustrated or upset you become. Shaking a baby can cause Shaken Baby Syndrome, a devastating and lasting condition, and may even be fatal. Talk to others who help you care for your baby about safe ways to calm your crying baby and about the dangers of shaking a baby.
It is important to understand that you cannot spoil your newborn by picking her up or holding her too often. To soothe your crying baby, first ask yourself if she is hungry or tired. If so, feed her or put her to sleep. Also check to see if her diaper needs to be changed. Perhaps she is lonely or gassy and simply needs your physical comfort. Pick her up and hold or rock her for several minutes to see if she calms down. Another possible explanation for your baby’s crying is that she is over- or under-stimulated. If there is a lot of noise or activity around your baby, try taking her to a quiet, softly-lit place where there are no other people around. She may just need a break. A baby who is under-stimulated may be bored and craving some excitement. Turn off the television, your computer, or anything that is keeping you from being fully attentive to your baby. Newborns do not need much to stimulate their brains. By simply making eye contact with your newborn and talking or singing to her, you will stimulate her brain. You can also try reading black-and-white or brightly-colored board books.
Dr. Harvey Karp, a respected pediatrician and author of The Happiest Baby on the Block, recommends the 5 S Method for soothing a crying baby. By using shushing, side/stomach position, swinging, swaddling, and sucking, many parents have found that this method helps them to soothe their crying infants within minutes or even seconds.
text4baby is a free service of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. If you’re pregnant or have a baby under the age of one, you can sign up to receive FREE text messages with valuable information on prenatal care, infant care, child development and more! Expectant mothers may sign up online here. You’ll receive text messages once a week throughout your pregnancy and throughout your baby’s first year. Visit the text4baby website for additional information.
: Bringing together City, Schools, and the Community for
a common mission.
GrowSmart’s mission is to promote and improve the
healthy development, school readiness, and reading
proficiency of young children, ages 0-8, in Virginia
This site was designed to provide information and resources for Virginia Beach parents, caregivers,and teachers of young children, ages 0-8.
The site is also intended for our community stakeholders who wish to find out more about the City of Virginia Beach’s early learning efforts and how you can get involved.
Address: 4525 Main Street Suite 700 Virginia Beach, VA 23462
Phone: (757) 385-0144
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| The City of Virginia Beach