Friday, March 12, 2010

Paz Vega Expecting Baby No. 3!

Paz Vega and husband Orson Salazar have revealed to Hola! magazine that they are expecting baby no. 3 in September! Though the couple had always planned on having more children, they admit that the news was unexpected.

"It's a surprise," says the 34-year-old Spanglish star. "This baby came a bit soon, but we're thrilled and happy."

Just thirteen weeks along, Paz says she wanted to wait until the end of her first trimester to share the exciting news: “Ava’s birth was very recent,” she explains. “And I have had two c-sections.”

Paz and Orson, who are already parents to son Orson, 2 ½, and Ava, 7 ½-months, are already trying to think up baby names: “Orson prefers a boy,” shares the soon-to-be mom-of-three. “Personally I have always liked boys, but if it’s a girl, marvelous, because I was raised among women.”

Congratulations to the Vega-Salazars!

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Strollers Take a Backseat to Slings Despite Safety Concerns

For most people, the 2009 movie "Away We Go," has all but faded from memory, a wry little comedy that didn't gain much traction at the box office and was all but ignored during the past awards season.

But for some people one scene in that movie continues to echo at playgrounds, coffee shops and on city sidewalks. The characters Burt and Verona, played by John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, arrive at the home of a friend and mother of young children, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and proudly present her with something she does not own: a stroller.

The result is not the warm “Thank you” they expect.

“I love my babies,” she exhorts before banishing the stroller from her house and flying into a rage. “Why would I want to push them away from me?”

And that’s exactly the question some parents are asking themselves these days. For them, the last decade’s coveted Bugaboo or Maclaren stroller has been largely supplanted by baby carriers — chic wraps, minimalist pouches and soft structured packs.

Hardly new, wraps and other types of baby carriers are traditional in many parts of the world, and Western versions have been used in North America and Europe for decades. But lately, “wearing” one’s baby has taken on a certain cachet, with celebrities like Brad Pitt and Keri Russell pictured in star-gazing magazines and blogs with their babies strapped to their bodies.

In recent years, the number of carriers has expanded from a handful of styles to scores. “In 2004, there were barely any carriers,” said Bianca Fehn, an owner of Metro Minis. “You had to find these work-at-home moms who made them and go on a waiting list for weeks or even months to get a carrier.” Before opening the store, she started an Internet community called Slings in the City that held regular baby carrier demonstrations around town.

But as carriers have grown more popular, their safety has been questioned, with particular alarm about bag-style slings, which have contributed to the suffocation deaths of several infants. On Tuesday, Inez M. Tenenbaum, the head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, announced a forthcoming warning about slings, saying that “we know now the hazard scenarios for very small babies” carried in them. Many specialty stores, like Metro Minis, do not sell bag-style slings whose safety has been challenged, and instructs buyers to position babies in any sling upright and tight against the caregiver.

While most people using baby carriers extol the convenience of having their hands free to steer a toddler, dial a cellphone or maneuver through a grocery store, some see it as an integral part of their parenting philosophy, which holds that babies should be worn on the body to foster a strong attachment to their parents.

“Close physical contact is important for babies,” said Byron Egeland, a psychologist at the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota, who has studied and written extensively about infant attachment. “But I would quickly add that a parent using a stroller is not going to make or break whether their child is securely or anxiously attached.”

Claire Moore, 33, nuzzled her 7-week-old daughter, ZoĆ«, while explaining that her carrier had been picked by her husband, Adrian. Walking their dog most mornings in nearby Prospect Park, he had spent months during her pregnancy trying to figure out the most practical, comfortable carrier for them both by surveying the park’s many fathers with babies tethered to their chests. Eventually, Ms. Moore said, he settled on the ERGObaby; they bought one in cranberry.

“He’d been keeping an eye out and knew that was the one,” she said. “All the dads are wearing it.”

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why pregnant film fans should stick to happy movies

Pregnant women planning a night at the cinema might want to steer clear of tear-jerkers.

Scientists have discovered that unborn babies respond to their mother's mood while she is watching a movie - and become quiet and still if the film is sad.

In a bizarre experiment, fetuses threw their arms around when their mothers watched a feel-good clip from The Sound of Music - but became subdued during a sad scene from The Champ.

Researchers have no idea how the babies pick up on their mothers' emotions, but suspect that the rush of hormones triggered by an emotional film are transmitted indirectly to the fetus.

The findings, reported today in New Scientist magazine, add to the evidence that a pregnant mother's mood and stress levels can affect her unborn child. Past studies have shown that stressed mothers-to-be are at higher risk of stillbirth and premature birth.Babies born to stressed mothers are twice as likely to have lower-than-average IQs. They are also more likely to be hyperactive, suffer from emotional problems and refuse to do as they are told.

In the new study, carried out at Nagasaki University in Japan, ten pregnant volunteers were asked to watch an upbeat five-minute clip from the Julie Andrews musical, The Sound of Music. Another 14 watched a tear-jerking five minutes from the 1979 Franco Zeffirelli film The Champ, in which a boy cries at the death of his father. The clips were 'sandwiched' between two extracts of neutral programs so the researchers could measure any changes in the movement of the babies.

The mothers-to-be listened to the movies using earphones to guarantee their unborn babies were not being influenced by the movie's soundtrack.

Dr Kazuyuki Shinorhara, who led the study, used ultrasound scans to count the number of arm, leg and body movements of the babies while their mothers were watching the clips.

Researchers found that the fetuses moved their arms significantly more during the happy clip from The Sound of Music. But in the other group, the unborn babies moved significantly less than normal while their mothers watched the sad scenes.

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NIH Panel: End Bans on Vaginal Birth After C-Section

Hospitals and professional societies should end bans that that keep many women who've had a C-section from opting for a natural birth in later pregnancies, an NIH advisory panel today urged.

About 75% of women succeed in having a vaginal delivery after previous cesarean delivery, assuming that it's not a multiple birth, that the baby is in the normal position, and that their previous C-section required only a single incision.

But women who might want to give labor a try very often don't get a chance. That's because of so-called "VBAC bans" -- hospital policies that forbid a vaginal birth after a cesarean (VBAC) unless fully equipped and staffed surgical and anesthesia services are readily available. These policies align with current guidelines set by gynecology and anesthesia professional societies.

Not all hospitals are able to comply with this standard, so many women who have had a C-section have no choice in the matter. In fact, 30% of hospitals stopped offering women this choice after the professional-society guidelines went into effect.

The panel of experts heard three days of testimony and scientific presentations on questions surrounding VBAC. In the end, they urged the professional societies to reconsider their guidelines and urged hospitals to reconsider their policies. However, the panel has no power to force a change in policy.

Panel chairman F. Gary Cunningham, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, noted that much more research is needed before doctors can identify the rare women who suffer VBAC complications.

While rare, the complications can be severe and even fatal. However, panel member Carol J. Rowland Hogue, PhD, MPH, director of the women's and children's center at Emory University, noted that VBAC isn't the only risk for a pregnant woman.

"Pregnancy is something of a risky endeavor," Hogue said at a news conference. "Women do suffer complications and their babies do have problems. Fortunately these are rare -- but they occur irrespective of mode of delivery. The very rare experience of maternal death is higher for C-section regardless of whether it is primary or repeat. This is very important for providers to weigh."

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Joseph Fiennes Welcomes a Baby Girl!

Congratulations to actor Joseph Fiennes and his wife Maria Dolores Dieguez, who are the proud new parents of a baby girl! A rep for the FlashForward star confirms that the couple's first child was born on Monday, March 8.

Joseph and Maria, who tied the knot this past summer, announced the pregnancy in September, saying they were "utterly thrilled" to have a baby on the way.

There's been no word on a name just yet.

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How to Tell Identical Twins Apart

It's hard enough for a mom of one babe to keep track of her newborn's eating and sleeping habits, but it's doubly difficult when there are two little bundles of joy. For sleep deprived parents, this can pose a problem when it comes to identical twins! So here are some tips that people use to tell the darlings apart or ways to make it easier on extended family and friends.

Physical Characteristics
Even when twins are identical, one may have chubbier cheeks, fuller lips, more angled ears, or a few freckles. Find the facial characteristic that sets the kiddos apart and use it to figure out who is who. Or look note a physical difference like one twin being taller or having a bigger build.

Personalities
Even wee babes have big personalities. One tot may be more of a morning person and the other a little night owl. There might be a smiling infant and another newborn who tends to scowl. Paying attention to these traits from fussiness to friendliness can help people figure out which identical twin is which.

Color Coded Dressing
Outfits can work wonders! Lots of moms choose a couple of colors for one twin and a few different hues for the other. This cuts down on arguments over who gets to wear what as the children grow and helps friends and preschool teachers tell the identical duo apart. But beware, the trick might be on you once the kiddos are old enough to swap shirts!

Painted Finger or Toe Nail
Infants snooze a lot so some new parents need a little help figuring out which child is which before their personalities are evident. Moms and dads have painted one fingernail or toenail of an identical twin to use as an identifier.

Temporary Tattoos or Stickers I recently heard about a grandfather who decided an easy way to differentiate his identical grandsons was to give one a temporary tattoo! A non-toxic tatt on the arm or a sticker on the hand of an older tot works too.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mario Lopez and Girlfriend are Expecting!

Saved By the Bell alum Mario Lopez, who now hosts Extra, is expecting his first child with girlfriend, Broadway dancer Courtney Laine Mazza, Star reports.

"Mario is over the moon with joy since finding out he's having a baby," a family friend says. "She's approximately three months pregnant and is healthy and happy."

The 36-year-old reportedly announced their happy news at a Super Bowl last month. "With a huge smile on his face and surrounded by friends and family, Mario announced he was having a baby and handed out pricey cigars. After the initial shock, everyone was thrilled by the news, giving Mario hugs and high-fives."

Mario's mom Elvira is said to be thrilled about the news. “She’s beaming and can’t stop talking about her new grandchild," the family friend says. "She always wanted Mario to have children and keeps saying, ‘It’s about time. He isn’t getting any younger!’"

Mario — who was very briefly married to Ali Landry — isn't likely to rush down the aisle with Courtney, whom he started dating in 2009 after he split with his Dancing with the Stars partner Karina Smirnoff. “Although the baby news has thrilled Mario, he isn’t making any marriage plans... yet."

Mario's grandfather Rafael Trasvina confirmed Mario’s baby news. "I am very excited that Mario and Courtney are having a baby. I don't know if they are having a boy or a girl — we have to wait until the baby is born — but I am very happy for them.”

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Ten Tax Breaks for Parents

There's one benefit to having children besides the joy they can bring you: tax breaks.

CCH, a provider of tax information and services, released a list this week of ten ways the tax code benefits parents by helping to defray the costs of raising and educating children. Here's the list from CCH below.

  • Personal Exemption: A reduction of taxable income of $3,650 in 2010 for each dependent child under age 19 or, if the dependent is a full-time student, under age 24. For divorced parents filing separately, the exemption generally goes to the parent who has custody for the greater part of the year.
  • Child Credit: A reduction of tax of $1,000 per child, which begins to phase out when adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000 for single filers and $110,000 for joint filers. This credit may also be partly refundable depending on the filer’s income.
  • Child Care Tax Credit: A credit based on child care expenses for children up to age 13, or older children if they are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves. The credit would be taken against maximum qualifying expenses of $3,000 for one qualifying dependent and $6,000 for two or more. It also equals 35 percent of qualifying expenses for taxpayers with adjusted gross income up to $15,000 and decreases to 20 percent of allowable expenses for adjusted gross income levels of $43,000 or more.
  • Adoption Credit: A maximum credit of $12,150 for a regular adoption, with credit amounts phased out at incomes between $182,180 and $222,180 for both single filers and joint filers. For a special-needs adoption, the credit is figured without regard to the actual expenses paid or incurred in the year the adoption becomes final.
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: Amounts increase for eligible taxpayers with children. Size of increase depends on income level and number of children.
  • Coverdell Education Savings Accounts: Contributions to these accounts are limited to $2,000 per year and earnings in the accounts grow tax-free. Withdrawals also are tax-free if used to pay for qualified educational expenses and can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment from kindergarten to post-secondary school.
  • Qualified Tuition Programs (529 Plans): Investment earnings in these plans are not taxed if withdrawals are used for qualified expenses. Contributions to state-sponsored programs are partially or fully deductible on some state tax returns. Contribution limits for the plans are set by the state or educational institutions sponsoring the plan and may be in excess of $300,000, but a contribution in excess of $65,000 by any individual ($130,000 for joint filers) in one year could restrict those persons’ ability to make additional contributions in further years without being subject to gift tax.
  • Bond Interest: For 2009, interest on proceeds of qualified savings bonds (specifically, Series I bonds or qualified Series EE bonds issued after 1989) cashed to pay education expenses is tax free for joint filers with less than $104,900 in adjusted gross income and is partially tax free for those with adjusted gross income of $104,900 to $134,900. The comparable income limits for single filers are $69,950 to $84,950. For 2010 returns, the phase out ranges are $105,100 to $135,100 for joint returns and $70,100-$85,100 for single filers.
  • Higher Education Tuition Deduction: An above the line deduction for qualifying educational expenses of up to $4,000 at an accredited post-secondary institution. The deduction is reduced to $2,000 at adjusted gross income above $65,000 ($130,000 for joint filers) and is not available if adjusted gross income exceeds $80,000 ($160,000 for joint filers). This must be coordinated with other educational exclusions and cannot be used for anyone for whom the American Opportunity Tax Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit is claimed.
  • American Opportunity, Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits: For 2009 and 2010, the American Opportunity Credit pretty much replaces the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits for undergraduate expenses. It provides a credit of up to $2,500 per student per year for the first four years of post-secondary qualified tuition and expenses. Up to 40 percent of the credit is refundable, depending on income. Residents of certain states who are in the “Midwestern Disaster Area” may do better choosing the Hope Credit for 2009 expenses.
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Yale study details how and why of BPA's dangers

Exposing a female fetus to a chemical found in plastics causes permanent changes in a daughter's uterus that might result in cancer - and a research team led by a Yale doctor has figured out why.

Bisphenol A is commonly found in plastics (those with a "7" code on the bottom), in the lining of aluminum cans and in dental sealants. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expressed concern about potential effects of BPA on the brain and reproductive organs, though the link is not definitive.

Dr. Hugh S. Taylor, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility section of the Yale School of Medicine, said even brief exposure to BPA in the uterus causes permanent damage.

“We already know that mice that are exposed to BPA already have a higher risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer and infertility,” he said.

In this study, one group of mice was exposed to BPA as fetuses and compared to a control group to see how much the DNA in the uterus had been modified. The findings, Taylor said, reveal that BPA strips off a part of the DNA, which permanently alters the genetic structure.

“It chemically modifies the DNA by removing methyl groups from the DNA backbone and that makes the DNA more accessible,” he said. The genes then become permanently altered to be supersensitive to estrogen, which can lead to cancer and other consequences.

He said the damage might occur in females after birth as well.

“It’s not as clear,” he said. “It very well may be. I think that’s still more controversial. I think pregnancy is the more dangerous time.”

Taylor said the effect of BPA is reminiscent of the problems with DES (diethylstilbestrol), which was prescribed to women from 1938 to 1971 to prevent miscarriages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. DES was linked to a rare form of vaginal cancer.

“Now it looks like (as they grow older) those women who were exposed as a fetus have a higher risk of breast cancer,” Taylor said. He also is studying a potential link between BPA and breast cancer.

Taylor said it’s a good idea for women who may become pregnant to avoid BPA, especially products that are brand new and unwashed or old and cracked. Plastics with BPA shouldn’t be microwaved, he said.

Environmental groups also have called for BPA to be removed from consumer products; some companies have begun manufacturing BPA-free items, such as water bottles.

“I always tell my patients, as a physician as well as a scientist ... to me it’s an easy decision. There’s so much benefit of eating fresh vegetables instead of (eating) out of a can,” he said.

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Researchers find more breast milk benefits

The list of health benefits for people who were breastfed as babies is growing, with research unveiled this week showing they are more likely as adults to have higher levels of good cholesterol.

Numerous studies have shown babies whose mothers breastfed them enjoy health advantages over formula-fed babies. These include fewer ear, stomach and intestinal infections, fewer digestive problems, skin diseases and allergies, and less likelihood of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Now, a study presented at an American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Fla., found that breastfed babies are better off than bottle-fed babies in two heart disease risk factors as adults - levels of good cholesterol (HDL) and body mass index.

The study looked at 962 people, average age 41, taking part in the long-running Framingham Heart Study centred on Framingham, Mass. About a quarter of the children were breastfed for at least a month as babies.

Those who were breastfed were 55 per cent more likely to have high average levels of high-density lipoprotein, or HDL, cholesterol in adulthood than low levels. Those who were breastfed on average had a lower BMI as adults - 26.1 compared to 26.9 for their bottle-fed counterparts. Adults with a BMI above 25 are considered overweight and at higher risk for heart disease.

Having a higher HDL is considered to protect against cardiovascular disease such as stroke and heart attack.

These cholesterol and BMI differences were modest but significant, according to Nisha Parikh of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston who led the study. "The results are intriguing in that they point to this concept that early nutrition or early environmental exposures may affect long-term health," she said.

Breastfeeding was not associated with benefits in other heart disease risk factors the researchers examined, including total cholesterol and blood pressure. The mothers of all the people tracked in the research were also part of the Framingham study.

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Bodhi and Jenna Elfman Welcome Second Son

Jenna Elfman is now mom-to-two!

The Accidentally on Purpose actress and husband Bodhi Elfman welcomed a second son, Easton Quinn Monroe Elfman, at 7:53 a.m. on Tuesday (March 2) in Los Angeles, Jenna announced on Twitter Friday. Her rep confirms the happy news to People, adding that Easton weighed in at 7 lbs., 12 oz.

"He's an impressive sleeper (thank god!) & I'm his biggest fan," says Jenna.

Bodhi also took to Twitter Friday with their happy news: "Shazaam! Easton Quinn Monroe Elfman. Born March 2 @ 7:53AM. Triple Word Score, Grand Slam, Royal Flush! Digging this guy big time."

Easton joins big brother Story Elias, 2 ½.

Congratulations to the Elfman family!

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20% off Patemm Changing Pads

From now till St. Patrick's day receive 20% off all patemm pads. Just enter the coupon code GREEN when ordering online at http://www.patemm.com.

"These circular, stylish changing pads contain pockets for storage and fold up to turn into a cute bag. Made of 100% organic cotton (there is a non-organic choice too), they are available in laminated and waterproof or in untreated cotton. They are all machine-washable and free of harmful chemicals. We love the different styles they come in..." Read more of the product review at Maternity & Style.

1 in 4 Parents Link Autism to Vaccines

Most parents believe that vaccines protect their children against disease, but one in four think some vaccines cause autism in healthy children, and nearly one in eight have refused at least one recommended vaccine, a new study has found.

The vaccine most likely to have been rejected by parents was for human papillomavirus, or HPV, to protect against cervical cancer, according to the report. It was based on questions asked of more than 1,500 parents of children 17 and younger. Many parents also rejected the chickenpox vaccine, the meningococcal conjugate vaccine against bacterial meningitis and, to a lesser extent, the MMR, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

Just last month, the British medical journal The Lancet retracted the 1998 study that first linked the MMR vaccine to autism and set off widespread fears about vaccine safety.

“We were sobered to find that one in four parents erroneously believe that vaccines can cause autism in an otherwise healthy child,” said Dr. Gary L. Freed, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the paper, published online on March 1 by the journal Pediatrics. “Fortunately, they are still overwhelmingly vaccinating their children.”

Nine of 10 parents agreed that vaccines protected children from disease, but more than half said they were concerned about serious adverse effects.

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Mom's strep throat may affect baby's heart

Babies born between April and July are more likely to have a certain heart defect, doctors reported on Monday, and they believe a common infection such as strep throat may play a role.

The condition, called hypoplastic left heart syndrome, affects the entire left side of the heart and usually requires at least three operations to reconstruct it.

Dr. Pirooz Eghtesady and colleagues at Cincinnati Children's Hospital in Ohio studied 1,500 newborns from 38 children's hospitals in the United States who had left-sided congenital heart diseases between 1996 and 2006.

They found a clear seasonal pattern to hypoplastic left heart syndrome but not other diseases, they told a meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Orlando.

"Strong seasonality is a clue that environmental factors may play an important role in this disease, as we see, for example, with such common childhood illnesses as asthma and croup," Eghtesady said in a statement.

They are now conducting a study to see whether strep throat, an infection caused by Streptococcus bacteria, may be to blame. Untreated infections of this strain of strep cause rheumatic fever, and sometimes lifelong heart disease.

Strep throat is more common in the winter months and may affect a developing fetus.

Studies have suggested that the body's immune response to strep can damage the left side of the heart. Eghtesady said preliminary evidence suggests that many mothers whose newborns had left-sided heart injury had a significant history of problems related to strep throat.

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