New children’s store opening near downtown Austin

St. Edward’s University alum Karina Drake is opening up a new children’s boutique near downtown Austin Saturday. The store, Alexa James Baby, is named after Drake’s own daughter.

She was inspired by raising Alexa James in New York City until the family moved home to Texas.

“Living in the city had its challenges, but exploring NYC through Alexa’s eyes was very inspiring,” Drake says in a press release. “There was something really special about mixing the magic of childhood with such a modern, adult setting.”

The store will feature clothing from sizes newborn to 6 toddler as well as toys, books, items for the nursery and cards. Drake will stock items from local designers as well as European designers.

The new Alexa James Baby boutique opens on Saturday. Kate Weaver

Drake wanted the store to be more than a place to buy things. Interior designer Claire Zinnecker created reading nooks as well as play areas. Drake plans to offer story times, happy hours, coffee and more events.

You can find clothing and toys at Alexa James Baby. Kate Weaver

Drake said she wanted “to create a space that fostered community, especially for mothers. After having Alexa, I found myself searching for escapes and destinations in the neighborhood. I would walk to beautiful baby shops in Tribeca and SoHo more for the amazing experience they offered than the actual items I was purchasing. My goal is to create an environment like that here in Austin.”

The store at 908 W. 12th St., No. C, will celebrate its grand opening 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. The first 20 people will get special gift bags, but you’ll also find samples, in-store discounts and more. RSVP on Eventbrite. Find more information on

Alexa James Baby. Kate Weaver

Dell Medical School, Seton lessen amount of opioids given to women after childbirth

Doctors at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas and at all Seton Healthcare Family hospitals are rethinking they way they treat mothers for pain after a Cesarean section or a vaginal delivery.

The new protocol has decreased the use of opioids by more than 40 percent while new moms are in the hospital. “We changed the way we want to manage pain,” says Dr. Amy Young, chair of the Department of Women’s Health at Dell Medical School and head of Women’s Health at Seton.

Dr. Amy Young is chair of the Department of Women’s Health at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas.

Beginning in February 2017, Seton and Dell Medical School changed the questions doctors and nurses asked about pain level, the way they measured that pain level and the way they gave out pain medication.

The hope was that they could lessen the amount of opioid medications given after birth to then lessen the possibility of addiction later.

The opioid epidemic continues to affect thousands. (Dreamstime)

In 2012-2015 in Texas, drug overdose was the No. 1 cause of accidental death in women within a year of giving birth, according to state Department of Health Services. That same study found that more than half of those overdoses involved an opioid.

Now instead of asking moms to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10 or to look at a series of smiley and not-so-smiley faces, doctors and nurses are asking moms how they are doing with functional activities such as the ability to get up and go to the bathroom and the ability to sleep comfortably.

The previous pain scales were subjective, Young says. “I’m a big gigantic ninny when it comes to pain,” she says. “I’m terrible at it. My 1 might be your 10.”

Using the number scale might mean that a mom might say she was a 3 and be given one pain regimen, but really her pain was the same as another mom’s 7, who got a different pain regimen.

Now doctors and nurses are automatically giving moms a combination of acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil) every six hours, unless they are allergic or don’t want it. Those two drugs work differently when it comes to how they control pain. Nurses also aren’t waiting for a woman to be in pain before giving her those medications.

What doctors and nurses found was that for many women, that was enough. They didn’t need the narcotics. For other women, who still reported pain when trying to do functional things, they were first given oral hydrocodone. If that still didn’t do it, they are given an intravenous pain medication like morphine.

Women who had had C-sections were more likely to need more than the acetaminophen/ibuprofen combination than those who had a vaginal birth.

RELATED: Dell Medical School is expanding a program to treat disorder that 40 percent of women experience

They also watched how patients rated their pain management in surveys. The hospital and school actually found those numbers either stayed the same as before they changed the protocol or improved slightly.

“This was a culture change,” Young says, “that took pretty embedded prescribing practices and changed them.” The fear was that patients would be in pain or that the acetaminophen/ibuprofen combination wouldn’t be enough, she says.

The change means that more moms aren’t leaving the hospital with the side effects of opioids such as constipation, feeling sedated and not being able to care for their babies because of that, or having withdrawal symptoms, she says.

“Any reduction that you can make (in opioid use in the hospital) should translate into a reduction in outpatient utilization,” Young says. “It’s a reduction of the number of narcotics floating around. It’s my little tiny place in the fight.”

A future study will look at opioid use after birth to compare what doctors are prescribing patients as they leave the hospital and what they actually fill and use.

Other hospital systems are looking at what Seton has done and some have even adopted Seton’s protocol, Young says. She plans to publish a paper on what they found in changing the pain protocol.

RELATED Study: Number of kids treated for opioids in hospital intensive care units doubled

RELATED: American Academy of Pediatrics reports: Kids are addicted to opioids, too

New hotline for new moms with postpartum depression

Postpartum Support International has several ways that new moms can get help. Of course, you also should check in with your own doctor, but if you can’t get in right away or while you’re waiting for the appointment, check out these resources:

A 24-hour, 7-day a week helpline. You can leave a message in English or Spanish and someone will call you back with encouragement, information as well as connect you to local resources.

You also can do a Text to Helpline: 503-894-9453. A volunteer will send you back information, encouragement and local resources.

Postpartum Support International also has Tuesday Online Support meetings at in English and Spanish. 

And Weekly Wednesday Chats with other moms and health experts. You have to preregister for them at The first Monday of the month, Postpartum Support also offers a chat for dads.

RELATED: Can men get postpartum depression? 

RELATED: Austin mom shares motherhood journey in thoughtful way?

A third baby for Kate Middleton and Prince William: Does three babies feel like a lot?

Monday morning Duchess Kate Middleton gave birth to her and Prince William’s third child, a boy. 

Three babies. For those of us who have two babies or only one baby, would a third baby be totally out of the question?

Dean of Windsor, David Conner speaks to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as they leave after the Easter Mattins Service at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on April 1 in Windsor, England. Simon Dawson – WPA Pool/Getty Images

In a two-parent household, you’re out-manned for sure, but maybe you don’t worry about the things you fretted about with the first child or even the second child. Maybe you’ve seen the diaper commercial where the mom is throwing out binky after binky that falls on the floor with the first child. By the second child, she’s rinsing it off or putting it in her mouth to somehow sanitize it (Does that really work? We’re thinking not.). If it showed the third child, that mom would just pick the binky right off the floor and put it back in her baby’s mouth. The other two kids have totally brought home worse germs from school — is probably her line of thinking.

One friend told me that going from one to two kids was much worse than going from two to three. By the time you get to four or five, it’s like running a small daycare, except the older kids can help with the younger kids and the younger kids help keep you sane and not sweat the small stuff when the older kids are teenagers.

For those who have taken the leap from two to three (or more), we’d love to hear what your experiences have been like. Does each kid get easier? Or does the work exponentially grow?

Read this essay from Parenting magazine: “The Gift of the Third Child.”

Of course for Duchess Kate, a third baby comes with a nanny and probably a night nurse, too.

Mom shares the less-than-pretty truth about raising a child with autism in ‘Autism Uncensored’

Whitney Ellenby writes her truth about raising a son with autism in “Autism Uncensored: Pulling Back the Curtain.” ($19.95, Koehler Books) Not everyone is going to like it, and that’s just fine with her. In fact, she’s been reviled for writing what she’s written.

Ellenby was a lawyer in Washington, D.C., working in the Disability Rights Section of the Department of Justice, when she and her husband, Keith, became pregnant with Zack, who is now 17.

Whitney Ellenby, her husband Keith, son Zack and daughter Cassie.

Ellenby doesn’t pull any punches about the first five years of Zack’s life. When he was born, she had trouble connecting with him. He didn’t sleep well. He didn’t respond in ways she thought he should. His expressions were just flat. He never pointed for anything. Yet, how should she know this wasn’t normal? He was a first child.

She doesn’t hide her bitterness when the diagnosis came, and with it, a recommendation for 40 hours a week of therapy. This therapy came with a false hope that maybe he could be trained to alter his behavior so much that he appeared normal.

Whitney Ellenby wrote “Autism Uncensored: Pulling Back the Curtain.”

She dutifully brought her son to Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for months on end. Some behaviors would get better for a time period, or he would move from one behavior to another, but she became aware that it wasn’t working, that he hated the therapy, that it felt like punishment.

She writes that felt like she was losing herself. She looked at her work clothes and realized she was no longer that person who wore those. She felt like she was becoming more and more isolated. She couldn’t take Zack to public places because he would freak out. He started doing things like smearing his poop all over his room at night or eating non-food items. She writes “So this is my life. I am a well-educated woman. I am an accomplished civil rights attorney. I am a woman who spends hours every night on her hands and knees scraping feces off walls.”

The book, she says, was written for parents like her who are struggling and in pain. “When you decide to become a parent, it’s a leap of faith,” she says. You expect a normal baby. You don’t expect a Zack. “It’s not natural to have a total surrender of your identity,” she says. “Are you expected to be happy and thrilled or is there a natural amount of anger and bitterness?”

“Autism Uncensored: Pulling Back the Curtain,” by Whitney Ellenby.

She has experienced backlash after writing the book, she says, mainly from some other parents of children like Zack and from adults with autism who are high-functioning. “It’s just terrible to tell my truth,” she says, of the messages she has received. “I’m offended that your offended,” she says about her critics.

The way she felt, she says, is very normal. “It’s helpful to acknowledge it,” she says.

Ellenby spent five years trying to figure to figure out what went wrong and blaming herself as well as trying to find a way to make him more like a neurotypical kids. She wants parents to “shed the shame. Don’t waste time blaming themselves,” she says. “The numbers are huge and we don’t know why. We don’t know what’s causing it, but it isn’t anything we intentionally did.”

The book takes readers through those dreadfully frustrating years, but there are triumphs for sure. The highs were incredibly high, and the lows were incredibly low.

One of the things Ellenby did that experts discouraged her from doing was exposure therapy to the public spaces that Zack feared.

Ellenby created a routine of bringing Zack to places like the movie theater or a “Sesame Street Live” performance. Zack would have an all out tantrum and often the audience would be hostile to Ellenby until she started explaining to them what was about to happen. She would tell them that her son has autism and that he is afraid, but if they will just listen to him scream for a few minutes, she would talk to him and tell him what was going to happen, and suddenly he would realize that Elmo is on stage and that’s magical or that a movie is going to start and that’s pretty cool.

“Our kids can do so much more than they think they can do,” she says.

Through doing this, Ellenby made sure that Zack was able to go on the high slide at the water park, even though she was too chicken to follow him down, or go to a rock concert.

Her work with Zack also inspired her to create a nonprofit organization in the Washington, D.C., area to offer sensory-friendly events for families of children with autism.

Instead of chasing a cure, she’d like national organizations to build in more services for families, to advocate for more opportunities for people with autism. She’d like autism to be treated like any other disability, with accommodations in public places.

“Our kids are innocent travelers with a disability that makes the world hard to navigate,” she says. “If they are flapping, own it. Don’t feel ashamed of it. Get them out into the real world. Don’t keep them at home because you’re embarrassed. The only way to crystallize skills is to practice them in the real world.”

One of the things she wants to encourage families with a new autism diagnosis to do is to try lots of therapies, but to trust their gut. If something isn’t working or if their child plateaus, try something else.

She wishes she had done more with real world experiences and playdates when Zack was younger rather than him spending his time in 40 hours a week of therapy that didn’t work.

Zack started out in regular classes with some support, but then as the gulf between him and his classmates became wider and wider, it became painful for Ellenby to watch. She had to get over the idea that the experts had given her early on that Zack could “recover” from autism. It was about letting go of the fantasy and pretense. Once she accepted that he’s never going to “recover,” and “it was strangely liberating,” she says. “We acknowledged we had set the bar at an unrealistic place.”

For her, that means she looks to a future of Zack living with assistance and maybe one day having an entry-level job that works for him.

“This is who he is, this is who he’s meant to be,” she says. “Call the thing what it is and ask for what you need.”

Your map to finding day care from Austin Public Health

Looking for child care in Travis County? Austin Public Health has this handy map. You can see where centers or in-home day cares are located. You also can see which ones have been Texas Rising Star certified and or National Association for the Education of Young Children certified. These measures look at the director, the teachers, the ratios, the amount of education, the outdoor activities, parent involvement, and other rubrics.

Look at things like cleanliness, attitude of the caregiver and staff to child ratio in day cares. LISA POWELL / STAFF

To look at the safety standards of your day care, check out the Texas Health and Human Services database, which shows the size of the center and location as well as what violations or self-reported incidents the centers or in-home care have had.

RELATED: Millennial parents, your cost of child care is like paying for college every year

And if you’ve ever thought to yourself, this daycare isn’t working out, read this story I wrote in 2014 on how to switch day cares;

Election Day 2008. I walked into my daughter’s day care room and saw another new teacher – her fourth or fifth of the school year. I was done. From my car, I called another day care center to see if by chance they had room for a 5-year-old for the next six months. They did.

Right then, I fired my day care of almost eight years.

The center that was perfect for my son and perfect for my daughter for the first four years of her life had changed. We needed something else.

Leaving your day care is a big decision. Sometimes there are obvious red flags: Is the center clean, are there a lot of accidents, are the children well-supervised, does anyone have access to the building and your child, are teachers doing what they say they are doing in their newsletters, does the staff know your child and you?

If your gut is telling you there’s something very wrong, check with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. At, you can look up recent inspections at your center and see what the violations were and if they’ve been corrected.

Before you decide to make the move, Lisa Tate, director of Children’s Lighthouse Learning Center in Cedar Park, suggests having a conversation with the center. A good center wants to hear why it’s not working for your child.

There might be something that the director is not aware of that needs to be fixed or it could be that you misunderstood what has been going on in the classroom.

Sometimes there are things that happen that might be typical for kids at that age – like biting – that might be alarming to parents, but are normal.

Tate likes for parents to meet with her face to face so she can read their body language, but phone, texting and email work, too.

“I assure them that I understand. If I’m doing something wrong, I want to fix it,” she says.

Sometimes it’s just not a good fit for your child anymore, and your current day care might be able to point you to a center that is better-suited. Maybe your child needs more structure or less structure.

Maybe the boy-girl ratio isn’t good for your child. Maybe your child needs to be challenged more or less academically. The teacher and your child might not be an ideal match.

Your child might need more targeted assistance than the center can supply.

Those are all things that you can’t predict when you first go looking at day cares.

Sometimes your family and your child would like another location.

“Each location should be doing the same things, but the culture of each location is different,” says Andrea Breen, director of quality assurance for Stepping Stone Schools and an evaluator for National Association for the Education of Young Children.

If you do decide to pull your child from that center, you should give your day care a reason so that other children can benefit.

Make sure to look at the day care’s policies before quitting. Many require two-weeks notice.

Of course, if you think your child is in danger, don’t wait. Pull her out. “If you look at hierarchy – health, safety and security – nothing else matters above that,” Breen says. “If you feel there is a danger for your child to return to that school… you can’t return to that school for two weeks.”

And after you’ve given notice, there should not be any repercussions. Your child should be treated as if she were going to stay the rest of the year.

Sometimes, though, you might go to another center and realize that the one you had been at was actually better than you thought. That’s why you want to leave on good terms.

“It’s never going to be perfect 100 percent of the time,” Breen says.


Two events for moms (and dads) this week

New parents and parents-to-be will want to attend the Mother of All Baby Showers. It’s happening 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Dell Diamond (VIP ticket holders get to come in 30 minutes early). It’s billed as a one-stop shop for information and products.

“I am proud to be partnering with Austlen, Doona, Shipt, Nuna, Baby K’tan, Rising Stars Dentistry and Orthodontics and many other companies of all shapes and sizes,” said Amy Lundy, creator of The Mother of All Baby Showers, in a press release. “Our event provides something for everyone whether you’re planning for a pregnancy, have a baby or getting ready to send your child to preschool.”

Expect to find giveaways, minispa treatments and swag bags. Tickets are $9 and include a seat at the ballgame. The VIP tickets for $70 include a Cribette playard, a 20 percent discount to one of the retailers stores and a swag bag.

If you bring an unopened package of diapers for the Austin Diaper Bank, you get a free general admission ticket. Register at

Love Child is hosting a popup shop with 30 vendors Sunday. Love Child

Love Child, the Austin-based online magazine for moms, is hosting a Mini Market, Goods for Moms and Their Minis, 30-vendor popup shop 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the South Congress Hotel. It’s free to attend and the first 20 attendees get a free goody bag. Find the invite here.

Here’s a list of the vendors:

Reading, playing with your children could reduce hyperactivity, aggression and more, study finds

Need another reason to read and play with your babies and toddlers? A study out of New York followed children from birth to age three and then assessed them at age 4 1/2, about a year and a half after they were part of a reading program. Their parents were given Reach Out and Read tools to help them read and play with their children. Then a subset were video taped and given pointers on how to better interact with their babies and toddlers.

Reading to your children could reduce hyperactivity, aggression and more. Ricardo B. Brazziell/American-Statesman 2012

Those children whose parents were video taped and given pointers had 69 percent less hyperactivity. They also had less problems with aggression and internalizing problems.

The New York group also studied giving the Reach Out and Read program and video component to children who were age three to five. Like their counterparts who had been enrolled in the program at a younger age, those children also had less aggression and internalizing problems, but they didn’t see as much hyperactivity reduction.

The study is in the April edition of “Pediatrics,” the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Will breastfeeding save you from heart disease later in life? Study might make the case

Could breastfeeding an infant for at least six months have an added benefit for Mom? Could it actually reduce heart disease? That’s what researchers at the University of Pittsburgh tried to figure out. They enrolled 678 women in Michigan who were pregnant between 1998 and 2004. They then followed up about 11 years later and measure the women’s blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides. They also measure the diameter and thickness of the carotid artery using a test that predicts heart disease risk.  The women who breastfed for six months or more had higher levels of HDL (aka the good cholesterol), lower triglycerides as well as a healthier carotid artery thickness versus the women who had never breastfed.

Are your embryos safe? How fertility center in Austin keeps tissues viable after tanks at two centers fail

This month, two fertility  facilities acknowledged that their storage systems have failed. Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco said that there had been a liquid nitrogen failure in one of its tanks holding thousands of eggs and embryos. In Cleveland, University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center announced that a storage tank holding 2,000 eggs and embryos had suddenly heated up, damaging its contents.

Tanks at Ovation Fertility are closely monitored to make sure they are kept at the right temperature.

The news is heartbreaking. People count on these fertility banks to store what could become their future children. It made us wonder: Are people in Austin at risk for losing their eggs and embryos? We talked to Tex VerMilyea, laboratory and operations director for Ovation Fertility, the lab attached to Texas Fertility Center.

The news, he said, caused Ovation Fertility to re-evaluate its systems, and once more is known about what happened in the cases in San Francisco and Cleveland, more re-evaluation will be done.

“This is the worse nightmare of anyone in the field,” VerMilyea said. “It’s a wake up call to make sure we are being diligent.”

RELATED: New research done in Austin helping women get pregnant and stay pregnant

Right now, at the facility, each cryotank where eggs, embryos and sperm are stored records a temperature every five minutes. If there’s any fluctuation above five degrees, it triggers an alarm tree that notifies VerMilyea, the facility manager and the supervisor. Every day VerMilyea receives a report of what the temperatures have been in each tank for the last 24 hours. Ovation Fertility also inspects the tanks daily to look for condensation, which would point out that the vacuum seal around the tank is failing. The tanks are topped off with more liquid nitrogen once a week.

The tanks Ovation Fertility use submerge the tissue in liquid nitrogen, rather than using just some liquid nitrogen and allowing the vapor from the nitrogen to do the cooling. The tanks are set to be -196 Celsius, with an alarm sounding at -191 Celsius. If the tank used vapor, the temperature inside would be between -180 and -140 Celsius. -139 is when cells start to degrade.  Some facilities use the vapor method because there is a theoretical risk of contamination using liquid only and vapor is cheaper. VerMilyea said because Ovation Fertility uses the liquid method, if something did happen, they would have time to move the embryos, egg and sperm to another tank before the tank hit -139 Celsius. We don’t yet know whether the tanks in San Francisco and Cleveland used 100 percent liquid nitrogen or some liquid and some vapor.

Labs also have to plan for what happens if there is a loss of power, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and more.

Theoretically, tissue stored at the correct temperature could last indefinitely. Recently, a 25-year-old woman gave birth using an embryo that was a year younger than herself.