Friday, April 02, 2010

Crying "Single Lady" Kid on The Early Show

If you haven't seen the new viral family video that's been making it's rounds, here it is for your Friday enjoyment. Plus, a plug for adoption.

The Science of Mother-Baby Bonding

You take your baby to the pediatrician for her regular check-ups, vaccines, and at the first sign of a fever. You keep her away from runny-nose friends and steer clear of the sun. You babyproof your home and gently bandage her boo-boos. All to make sure your child grows up healthy and strong. But compelling new research is showing that the strength of your emotional bond with your baby may well trump all of those other measures you take to help her thrive.

A close attachment can prevent diseases, boost immunity, and enhance IQ in your baby, says Deepak Chopra, M.D., the endocrinologist turned mind-body -- medicine guru, Parenting contributing editor, and coauthor of Magical Beginnings, Enchanted Lives: A Holistic Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth. Those hugs and kisses are a force of nature more powerful than ever thought, says Dr. Chopra. Mother-child bonding has evolved to become a complex physiological process that enlists not just our hearts, but our brains, hormones, nerves, and almost every part of our bodies.

There are decades of evidence to back up Dr. Chopra's claims. In one study from Ohio State University, rabbits that were cuddled by researchers were protected against the artery-clogging effects of a high-cholesterol diet. The love and attention affected the rabbits' hormone levels, the study authors concluded, helping them withstand heart disease. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found that some female rats took more time and care to lick their infant pups than others; the pups that were licked frequently grew up to be less stressed and more adventurous in temperament, while pups that weren't groomed as much exhibited nervous, stressed-out behavior. And yet another study, published in Pediatrics, found that premature babies who were stroked gained nearly 50 percent more weight than those who were not. Such skin-to-skin contact (known as kangaroo care) has been shown to have other health benefits for preemies, too.

It's well known that the nipple stimulation that occurs when a baby nurses causes a hormone called oxytocin to be released in the mom, which in turn triggers milk let-down. But oxytocin is also called the "love hormone" because it's produced during orgasm and other affectionate moments. In fact, oxytocin behaves in the brain much the same way that morphine does; it turns on our "reward" center, easing pain, making us feel good, and causing us to crave that emotional high again and again. Women who don't breastfeed, or choose to eventually switch to or supplement with formula, happily do not miss out on the "love drug." Simply gazing into your baby's eyes while bottle-feeding or just snuggling or massaging also unleashes the feel-good hormones in both of you.

There's more evidence that we're hardwired to connect with our kids: Pheromones -- the chemicals we secrete to attract a partner -- are also secreted by our babies, ensuring that we're similarly smitten with them. In one study, 90 percent of moms were able to identify their newborns by scent alone after having spent as little as ten minutes with them. When the moms spent an hour with their babies, 100 percent of them correctly distinguished their own baby's smell from the smell of other infants.

A baby recognizes his mother's scent, too. Last year, researchers in Japan found that infants who smelled their own mother's milk while undergoing a routine heel-stick procedure exhibited fewer signs of distress than babies who were exposed to the odor of another mother's milk, formula, or nothing at all. The mere scent of their mother's breast milk was enough to calm the newborns and ease pain. Here's an interesting aside: The act of kissing may have evolved as an affectionate gesture because it puts our nose in direct contact with the base of our partner's nostrils, where pheromones are generated.

Just as scent motivates you to care for your child and motivates your child to stay close to you, so too does a smile. In a recent study conducted at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, brain MRIs were taken of women while they looked at photos of their own children and of other kids making sad, happy, and neutral faces. The scans found that when a woman saw a photo of her own child, the parts of her brain associated with rewards processing (meaning they make you feel good!) were activated, and even more so when she saw photos of her child smiling. It's all very primitive: Mom make Baby smile, Mom get reward, Mom want to make Baby smile again.

So ignore your e-mails and forget about the laundry. Don't stress about vacuuming or entertaining guests. Let bonding with your baby become your priority. Lie around with her, doing nothing. Cuddle. Play. Dr. Chopra believes in "nourishing all of your baby's senses" by holding her, massaging her, singing to her, using soothing scents (lavender, rose, vanilla), and showing her colorful, interesting shapes and objects. Remind yourself that you're building a connection that will comfort both of you for years and years. And when you need a break, take one.


Free folic acid at Kmart pharmacies

In an effort to promote healthy pregnancies, Kmart is offering a free one-month supply of folic acid supplements to its pharmacy customers through May 1.

The offer is limited to prescription-strength doses of folic acid, a B vitamin that helps prevent serious birth defects when taken before and during pregnancy.

Customers who have a valid prescription can get a free bottle of supplements at any Kmart pharmacy. A list of locations is available at


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Diabetes in Mothers

Research has found a new benefit that mothers can obtain by breastfeeding - decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

In a recent study conducted on more than 53,000 women age 45 and older, the odds of having diabetes were similar for women with children and those who had remained childless. But among women with children, each year of breastfeeding was associated with a 14 percent reduction in diabetes risk.

The researchers then considered the importance of other factors that could affect a woman's likelihood of breastfeeding and/or developing diabetes -- including age, weight, family history of diabetes, reported exercise habits and education and income levels. Breastfeeding itself remained linked to the odds of having diabetes, according to the study.

According to the manager of the Association, Kate Mortensen only 65% mothers are breastfeeding when their baby is 3 months old and the figures drop to 40% by the time the baby reaches the half year mark. She says mothers need more support and encouragement to breast feed longer.

"Mothers still choose to breastfeed, it's just that they are not seemingly able to keep it going, and so we need skilled lactation support for problems that they face….They need good maternity leave so they know they do have a period where they can be at home with their babies and establish lactation. They need good community support and we need more knowledge about breastfeeding out there."

Perception of low milk supply is common among mothers and one of the major reasons why they supplement with formula feeds she says.

"Overall, from my 20 years of counseling mothers, it seems that mothers don't realize there is not this deep community understanding that a breastfed baby needs to be fed anywhere between eight and 12 times in 24 hours - so that means you are feeding a baby quite often….There is still this old-fashioned idea that a mother should feed a baby three to four hourly at evenly spaced times throughout the day, which is totally unrealistic. The normal baby will have lots of frequent feeds and their feeding patterns change as they get older."

"There is research around lactation helping to reduce the weight that you keep from pregnancy. It also affects where your weight is lost from….You're in a different metabolic state while you're breastfeeding. You have a reduced reaction to stress and you have a lowered blood pressure…The research on weight loss because of lactation is quite mixed but overall it does seem to have a beneficial effect on mothers' weight loss - breastfeeding does use calories, but it also affects your metabolism. You require less insulin while you're breastfeeding, so it affects your metabolism at a quite a deep level."

There have been earlier reports that breast feeding may decrease the risk of getting type 2 diabetes later in life. But according to lead researcher Dr. Bette Liu, of the University of Western Sydney, the difference between those studies and this new research is the inclusion of women who have never given birth compared to those who had children but did not breast feed. This latter group had a 50% higher risk of getting diabetes she said.

"In other words," Liu said, "it appears that having children increases the chances of women developing type 2 diabetes in later life, but breastfeeding can reduce this risk to the same level as that of women who have never had children."

She went on to say that the exact reason why breastfeeding might affect a woman's later risk of type 2 diabetes is not clear but it can be speculated that the hormonal changes that come with breastfeeding may have lasting effects on how a woman's body processes blood sugar.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

This Week's Celebrity Baby Bumps

Amy Poehler accentuates her bump in black, Tiffani Thiessan poses before her baby shower, Claudia Schiffer wears a flowing gray frock with a colorful scarf, Bethenny Frankel looks comfortable in white sweats, Amy Adams dotes on her man while out shopping and later wears a blue dress to her baby shower.

Source Source

Stress and Pregnancy: Misconceptions and Building Immunity

As sharply higher numbers of women work through pregnancy, many hear the same advice: Relax. Don't stress out or you will harm your unborn baby.

Contrary to old beliefs, however, research shows that ordinary day-to-day job and home stress isn't likely to cause low birth weight or other problems for most women. Traffic delays, work deadlines and other everyday hassles aren't likely to pose a threat to unborn babies, researchers say, and pregnant women who feel they are coping well tend to do just fine.

Instead, new studies are revealing a link between a certain kind of stress and some developmental delays in the baby: worrying excessively about the pregnancy itself.

This "pregnancy-specific anxiety" was linked to lower cognitive-development scores in babies at 12 months of age, based on a study published recently in Child Development by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, echoing other research. Women who experience this kind of anxiety worry excessively about potential problems with fetal development, miscarriage or giving birth.

Researchers don't yet understand the basis for this finding. Women may become excessively anxious about their pregnancies because they sense that something actually is amiss, which could account for the developmental delays. Or, a mother who is anxious and negative during pregnancy might tend to provide less nurturing and stimulating care after birth.

Whatever the cause, many obstetricians are urging pregnant women to stop obsessing about stress, and seek out more support from family and friends. "Most of my patients are so anxious it's outrageous," says Laura Riley, medical director of labor and delivery at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It's amazing how many people will come to my office and say, 'I've read that stress is very bad for pregnancy, and I'm all stressed out."' She tells patients, "Now you're all stressed-out about being stressed. This is just not helpful."

Some obstetricians are sending expectant moms to prenatal-care groups where they can get stress relief the old-fashioned way: by talking to other pregnant women. In a program called Centering Pregnancy, about 10 expectant mothers who are all at the same stage of a healthy pregnancy receive prenatal care in a group. In periodic two-hour sessions scheduled with the same frequency as standard one-on-one prenatal checkups, the women first get private screenings for blood pressure, weight and other health indicators, then gather for discussion.

A midwife or obstetrician also often gives a brief talk on a scheduled topic, answers questions and corrects misinformation.

In the process, "you create more of a support group" for mothers, lowering their stress, says Peter Bernstein, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, New York.

An estimated 300 medical-care facilities are offering Centering Pregnancy groups, says Sharon Rising, executive director of Centering Healthcare Institute, Cheshire, Conn., a nonprofit promoting group care.

A study of 1,047 young mothers, published in 2007 in Obstetrics & Gynecology, found those who received prenatal care in a Centering Pregnancy group had one-third fewer preterm births, compared with others who received standard care.

While most pregnant women face moderate stress, a smaller slice have unrelenting, chronic strain. Women facing more difficult circumstances, such as extreme poverty, racism or serious family problems, have a higher risk of preterm birth or developmental problems. Also, research shows that going through a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, during the first trimester also raises the risk of premature delivery or low birth weight.

In coping with all kinds of stress, family and friends can help a lot. Social support—kind words, nurturing friends and surroundings that prompt smiles and laughter—is emerging as a powerful antidote to pregnancy stress.

A 2008 Swiss study that subjected 60 pregnant women to stressors, such as a simulated job interview and a math test before a camera and an audience, found those who reported more "daily uplifts" in their lives, such as smiling, laughing and receiving compliments, were less likely to react negatively to stress. Positive social experiences seem to act as a buffer, the study found.

Researchers increasingly believe that how individual women react to stress is a major factor in its effects. A study led by researchers at Michigan State University has linked a hostile attitude in and of itself—that is, the tendency in a pregnant woman to feel angry, suspicious, cynical, tense or nervous a lot of the time—with an increased risk of preterm birth.

Researchers say building "stress resiliency"—a habit of staying calm and optimistic, and continuing to care well for yourself through periods of heavy stress—is a key to healthy birth outcomes. Michael Lu, an author and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of California, Los Angeles, encourages women to start building resiliency against stress even before they become pregnant—forming good exercise, nutrition and sleep habits, and learning how to solve problems and face adversity without stressing out.

Learning to savor life's joys, be grateful, and look at seemingly negative events from a positive angle, he says, can set the stage for a pregnancy immune to the hazards of stress.


Chemotherapy for Breast Cancer During Pregnancy Safe for Unborn Baby

Women with breast cancer who are diagnosed while they are pregnant do not have to worry about endangering the health of their unborn babies if they are treated with chemotherapy, according to a study presented here at the 7th European Breast Cancer Conference (EBCC7).

Sybille Loibl, MD, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany, presented the findings here on March 26.

So far the evidence upon which decisions about how to treat pregnant women with breast cancer is largely based on case studies and retrospective investigations.

The German Breast Group, of which Dr. Loibl is a member, set up a registry to collect data both retrospectively and prospectively from patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer during pregnancy.

"Ours is the only international registry to focus on outcomes affecting both mother and baby," said Dr. Loibl during his presentation.

The team of researchers entered details of 235 patients prospectively (n = 119) and retrospectively (n = 116) between April 2003 and October 2009. Breast cancer was diagnosed, on average, 23 weeks into the pregnancy.

Out of 151 women, 91 received an average of 2 cycles of chemotherapy while they were pregnant.

The average gestational age of the babies at the time of delivery was 36 weeks, ranging between 28 and 42 weeks.

The average weight of babies exposed to chemotherapy during pregnancy was slightly lighter with an average of 2,636 mg compared with 2,791 mg in babies who were not.

Among the 91 babies born who were exposed to chemotherapy in utero, 1 died after birth, 1 suffered from necrotic enterocolitis, 1 died 3 weeks after birth, 1 developed sepsis, 1 developed neutropenia, and 2 had anemia. Three of these babies were born bald, and 1 had trisomia 18.

According to Dr. Loibl most of these problems were not related to the treatment for breast cancer but were due to other circumstances.

"Our study suggests that pregnant breast cancer patients can be treated as close as possible to standard recommendations and receive chemotherapy while they are pregnant," said Dr. Loibl.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mom's cavities can spread to baby

When Rachel Sarah took her daughter in for her first dental checkup a few years ago, she got a surprise. Not only did her 24-month-old have two cavities in her baby teeth, the pediatric dentist suggested she might have "caught" them from her mom.

"The dentist handed me this piece of paper that talked about saliva transfer," said Sarah, a 37-year-old writer from San Francisco. "It said not to share cups or utensils or food and said, 'No kissing your kid on the lips.' I was shocked; I'd been taking a bite of food and then giving her a bite since she started eating. I told the dentist I’d never heard of this and he said these were new findings.”

As it turns out, studies about the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mom to baby have been published for 30 years. The primary culprit is Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that can pass from person to person through the transfer of saliva, such as sharing utensils, blowing on food, and yes, even kissing that sweet little bundle of joy on the mouth.

According to a 2008 study in Pediatric Dentistry, “strong evidence demonstrated that mothers are a primary source of MS [mutans streptococci] colonization of their children; a few investigations showed other potential sources … notably fathers.”

“There have been many, many studies,” said Dr. Jane Soxman, a pediatric dentist from Allison Park, Pa. “The main thing to know is that tooth decay is a bacterial infection and you can spread it from one person to another during the window of infectivity, which is during infancy and especially during the time of tooth eruption. That’s when the teeth are most vulnerable.”

Only parents (or caregivers) with active tooth decay can spread the Streptococcus mutans bacteria through the transfer of saliva. And Soxman stressed that the transmission of bacteria-laden saliva is just one piece of the puzzle. Tooth decay is caused by a combination of factors, including the transfer of infectious saliva, genetics, oral hygiene, and feeding practices, such as letting your baby constantly suck on a sippy cup full of juice or milk or other sugar-laden liquid. (Bacteria uses the sugar to produce acid, which breaks down enamel.) Baby teeth are particularly vulnerable to decay.

But the decay won’t just impact baby teeth. If the bacteria are allowed to thrive, Soxman said, they will colonize and stick around for years, attacking the permanent teeth when they come in.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that parents have their child evaluated by a dentist when the first tooth erupts, or no later than their first birthday.

Luckily, there are preventative measures that can help kick the bacteria to the curb. A January 2010 study in the Journal of Dental Research found that the children of moms who chewed Xylitol gum (starting in the sixth month of pregnancy) “were significantly less likely to show MS colonization.”

“If a woman is decay-active, she should be chewing Xylitol in the third trimester so when the baby’s born, the chance of transmission of decay-causing bacteria will be reduced,” said Soxman. “She should also have her teeth cleaned thoroughly during the second and third trimester.”

Cutting back on saliva-transferring behaviors — such as utensil-sharing, toothbrush sharing, blowing on baby’s food, pre-chewing baby’s food and cleaning off the pacifier with your own mouth — will also help.

“You could do just about everything as long as you wipe that baby’s mouth out repeatedly with a clean wet cloth,” said Soxman. “I tell parents to wipe the baby’s mouth out as often as they change the diaper. Wipe the tongue, the teeth, and the cheeks from infancy on. Then the colonies of bacteria won’t be established.”


Insurance industry agrees to fix kids coverage gap

The new health care law was signed last week, but the fine print was not clear on whether kids with health problems were guaranteed coverage starting this year, or if they might have to wait until 2014.

The law can also be read to mean that if an insurance company accepts a particular child, it cannot write a policy for a child that excludes coverage for a given condition. For example, if the child has asthma, the insurer cannot exclude inhalers and respiratory care from coverage, as sometimes happens now.

But the company could still turn down the child altogether.

In a letter to the main industry trade group, Sebelius attempted to remove any doubt.

"Health insurance reform is designed to prevent any child from being denied coverage because he or she has a pre-existing condition," she wrote America's Health Insurance Plans. "Now is not the time to search for nonexistent loopholes that preserve a broken system."

Sebelius specified that children with a pre-existing medical problem may not be denied access to their parents' coverage under the new law. Furthermore, insurers will not be able to insure a child but exclude treatments for a particular medical problem.

The insurance industry says it won't fight President Barack Obama over fixing a coverage gap for kids in the new health care law.

In a letter Monday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the industry's top lobbyist says insurers will accept new regulations to dispel uncertainty over a much publicized guarantee that children with pre-existing medical problems can get coverage starting this year.

The president of America's Health Insurance Plans said the industry will "fully comply" with the regulations, expected within weeks.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Design-Your-Own Maternity Shirts

I love this shirt. I designed it when I was pregnant, had it printed in silver glitter letters, and wore it proudly around town, feeling sure some other mom-to-be would spot me, give me the secret pregnancy high-sign, and um - I don't really know what a belly war would be, exactly, but I'll bet I would totally win every time.

Didn't happen. In fact, I never even got a "yeah, I'm pregnant too" wink from other preggies. Makes me sad, but I wear the shirt anyway, to the eternal horror/derision/amusement of my stepson/husband/other stepson.

Funny maternity shirts abound, but you can make your own maternity tees too; here are two online shops with maternity options. (They have onesies on tap, too, so if you're like me and want to spend Mother's Day wearing matching mother-daughter "Ladybug-Babybug" shirts, your dream can come true!)

Prices listed are for shirts only; final price will depend on whether you go for glitter letters, whether you print both front and back, and other fun factors. And remember -- you can always buy a blank maternity shirt and tye-dye, iron-on, and Bedazzle your way to customized fun!


Maternity shirts come in white, pink, blue, and black, and in sizes S, M, L, XL, and 2X. Base price usually $25.99, on sale for $20.99 at press time!

Customized Girl

Maternity shirts come in black, white, pink, and blue, and in sizes S, M, L, XL, XXL, and XXXL. (This is where I made mine - be advised, they run a little big IMO.) Base price S21.97.


Too Few Women Get Enough Exercise During Pregnancy

According to a study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, fewer than 1 in 4 pregnant women meet the physical activity guidelines set by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in 2002. These guidelines state that pregnant women get 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise on most days of the week if they have no medical or obstetric complications.

The study included data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Over 1,000 pregnant women aged 16 and older were interviewed between 1999 and 2006. The findings were published in the March 2010 issue of the journal Preventive Medicine.

Only about 23% of the women were active enough to meet the guidelines recommendations. Walking was the most common physical activity reported.

According to author Kelly Evenson PhD, research associate professor of epidemiology in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, women in their first trimester were more likely to reach the exercise guidelines that those more advanced in their pregnancy. Women with health insurance and non-Hispanic whites were more likely to meet the guidelines than other socioeconomic groupings.

Benefits of becoming and staying active during pregnancy include helping to reduce backaches, constipation, bloating, and swelling; helping to prevent or treat gestational diabetes; increasing energy; improving mood; promoting muscle tone, strength and endurance, and helping improve sleep patterns.

Exercise during pregnancy can help prepare the body to be able to cope with labor and childbirth. Continuing an exercise program after the baby is born can help get you back in shape faster.

Women who were not following a regular exercise program prior to pregnancy, but wishing to do so as a way of improving health, should start slowly and be careful not to over exert. Start at 5 minutes a day and add 5 minutes each week until 30 continuous minutes are achieved. Never exercise to the point of exhaustion or breathlessness. Take frequent breaks, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and drink plenty of fluids while exercising.

All pregnant women participating in an exercise program should be aware that hormones produced during pregnancy cause the ligaments that support the joints to become relaxed, which makes them more mobile and at a greater risk of injury. Avoid jerky, bouncy, or high-impact motions. Also be aware that the weight gain will shift the body’s center of gravity and may make a woman less stable or more likely to lose balance.

Most forms of exercise are safe during pregnancy. Walking, swimming, stationary cycling, and low-impact aerobics are good choices. Higher-impact sports such as running and strength training can be safe for women who were already participating in these activities before pregnancy. Potentially dangerous activities include downhill snow skiing, gymnastics, horseback riding, contact sports (soccer, basketball), and scuba diving. After the first trimester, avoid doing exercises on the back, like poses performed lying down in yoga.

Warning signs to be on the lookout for are vaginal bleeding, dizziness or feeling faint, increased shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, muscle weakness, calf pain or swelling, uterine contractions, decreased fetal movement, or fluid leaking from the vagina.


Pregnant Celebrity Cover Girls

Not too many years ago it was considered risque to wear tight-fitting clothes while pregnant, let alone show off your gorgeous baby bump in its flesh!

Let's take a moment to thank Demi Moore who single-handedly changed this archaic way of thinking. While pregnant with her second daughter with Bruce Willis, Demi posed for the August 1991 edition of Vanity Fair baring her baby bump. This groundbreaking picture - dubbed "More Demi Moore" - had a lasting impact on society.

Since then, many other pregnant celebs have proudly displayed their baby bumps:

  • Demi Moore (Vanity Fair, Aug. 1991)
  • Britney Spears (Q Magazine, Nov. 2006)
  • Monica Bellucci (Vanity Fair [Italy], Jul. 2004)
  • Cindy Crawford (W, Jun. 1999)
  • Christina Aguilera (Marie Claire, Jan. 2008)
  • Halle Berry (InStyle, Feb. 2008)
  • Paz Vega (ELLE [Spain], Aug. 2009)
  • Britney Spears (Harper’s Bazaar, Aug. 2006)
  • Lisa Rinna (Playboy, Sep. 1998)
  • Monica Bellucci (Vanity Fair [Italy], Mar. 2010)
  • Britney Spears (yes, again!) (ELLE, Oct. 2005)
  • Rebecca Romjin (page six, Nov. 2008)
  • Jessica Alba (Fit Pregnancy, July 2008)
  • Molly Ringwald (Fit Pregnancy, July 2009)