Friday, November 05, 2010

Fathers are happier when doing more housework, says study

It will be music to the ears of working mothers everywhere: fathers are happier when they do more of the housework themselves, spend longer with their children and have working partners who are in the office just as long as they are, a major new study has found.

The best way to de-stress a father is for his partner to share the weight of domestic burdens with him, rather than ironing his socks, making his breakfast and taking the lion's share of responsibility for the kids.

Researchers hope the interim findings from the study, called Work Life Balance: Working for Fathers?, will prompt employers to re-evaluate myths about work - so that women cease to have their careers blocked by bosses who assume they will be primary carers of children, and men are given more opportunity to change their work-life balance.

"The way we 'do' family has changed – not only because mothers are more likely to go out to work but also because today both mothers and fathers want close relationships with children as they are growing up," said Dr Caroline Gatrell of the Lancaster University management school, the lead researcher in the two-year project carried out for the charity Working Families.

Gatrell and her team spoke to more than 1,100 working fathers to find out how they combine work and family life. Their findings reveal that the desire for more "family time" is widespread, with 82% of full-time working men saying they would like this.

"It is becoming increasingly evident that the expectations that fathers have of the way and amount they are involved directly with their children is altering. Fathers want to spend more time with their children and are doing more of the direct care for them," said Gatrell.

The team also found evidence that social attitudes towards childcare are in a period of profound change: fewer fathers than mothers, for example, believe that it is a mother's job to look after children. "The problem is that although families are changing, this is – largely – being completely ignored by employers," added Gatrell.

"This is creating a massive problem for both men and women. Women are having their careers blocked by employers who assume that, once children come along, their commitment to the workplace will be severely compromised. But the same myth is also disadvantaging men who find themselves being their child's main or only carer, because employers aren't offering them work-life balance choices. It is time workplace attitudes changed to recognize the massive changes that have taken place in family practices in the 21st century."

The findings also include that men are very often "seriously stressed" and those who have one or three children are more stressed than those who have two; fathers who do more housework are less stressed than those who do a smaller amount; and fathers whose partners work full-time have a better sense of wellbeing than those whose partners work part-time.

"New fathers are likely to be completely unprepared for the impact a child has on their lives. When number two comes along, they know what to expect. But number three is another massive change, especially with the extra squeeze on income and costs," said Gatrell.

She added that, even though there is an "equalling up" in the domestic sphere, women still do most of the domestic work and childcare, partly because fathers are "hitting some limits" in the time they have for work and family.

"Although fathers have expressed a desire to work more flexibly, they do not do so in the same numbers as women."


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Severe morning sickness runs in families

A woman's chances of experiencing severe nausea during pregnancy appear to be influenced, at least in part, by genetics, according to new study findings.

Researchers found that women were more likely to experience a serious form of morning sickness if their mothers or sisters did as well.

Looking specifically at a very severe form of nausea known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), the authors found that women with sisters who had HG were 17 times more likely to also develop HG. Women with this condition have unrelenting, excessive nausea and vomiting that puts them at risk of malnutrition, dehydration and significant weight loss.

Study author Dr. Marlena Fejzo of the University of Southern California-Los Angeles told Reuters Health she wasn't surprised by the findings, since previous research has shown that severe morning sickness is more likely to affect both members of identical twin pairs, hinting at a heritable element.

However, in the new study, she added, "the degree of heredity is very exciting because it suggests genes are involved, and when we find those genes, we may finally understand the cause of severe nausea in pregnancy and be able to make new treatments that are designed to treat the cause rather than the symptoms."
Most pregnant women - an estimated 75 percent - experience some morning sickness, according to the American Pregnancy Association, but 1 percent suffer the extreme HG form of illness that can require hospitalization.

It's unclear why some women become nauseous while pregnant and others don't. Even animals such as dogs and monkeys appear to experience a form of morning sickness, Fejzo noted. "There are even reports of snakes avoiding food during pregnancy," she said in an e-mail.

To investigate whether severe forms of nausea might have genetic roots, Fejzo and her team reviewed information collected from 207 women who experienced HG during pregnancy and had at least one sister who had also been pregnant. They compared their responses to 110 of the patients' female friends who had relatively nausea-free pregnancies, serving as controls.

The researchers found that 14 percent of women who experienced HG during pregnancy had sisters who also had HG, versus less than 1 percent of women who did not have HG.

When combining HG with other severe forms of morning sickness - persistent nausea that was not bad enough to require IV fluids or nutrition - a family history also appeared to put women at higher risk.

Specifically, 34 percent of women with HG also had an affected sister, versus 8 percent of women who were never diagnosed with HG.

Among 469 women with HG and 216 of their female friends, 33 percent of those with HG had a mother with severe nausea or HG as well, versus only 8 percent of their friends.

"There can be variation in nausea and vomiting from one pregnancy to the next, which suggests that not only genes are involved but also other factors," Fejzo noted. "For example, some studies suggest a female fetus or carrying multiple fetuses results in more nausea. So I would speculate that the level of nausea in pregnancy is a combination of both genetic factors and non-genetic factors."

One concern about these findings, noted Dr. Andrej Grjibovski at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, who did not participate in the study, is that women with HG might have been more likely to volunteer to participate in the study if they had relatives who were also affected. And since these women recruited the controls themselves, they "may not be representative of the general population," he cautioned.

Still, Grjibovski said in an e-mail that he was "not at all" surprised by the findings, since other research has suggested both maternal and paternal genes may play a role in HG. A recent analysis of more than 2 million birth records showed that women whose mothers suffered from a serious type of morning sickness were at triple the risk of the condition themselves.

HG hospitalizes more than 59,000 women every year in the U.S. A recent review of 27 large studies concluded that there is no reliable treatment for nausea in early pregnancy. Still, options include dietary changes (such as eating small meals and avoiding spicy foods), alternative therapies such as acupressure and hypnosis, and some prescription anti-nausea medications.


Thursday, November 04, 2010

November is Child Safety Month!

November is Child Safety Month, a time to reflect on things you can do to keep your child safe in any situation. If you haven't yet read BabyWeekly's articles by Alison Rhodes, this is the perfect time to start. Alison is a renowned safety advocate in the nation who can offer expert advice for parents of children in various age groups. She says:

"With the constant warnings of recalls, toxins and food contamination in the news, parents are almost frozen with fear over what's safe for their children. While all of these reports need to be taken seriously, we also need to keep them in perspective. The media is only able to give top line information. It's up to us as parents to truly research an issue and make some determinations for ourselves. As The Safety Mom, my goal is to get all parents smart about safety and help you sift through the information. What's hype and what's fact? In my articles I will try to give you some basic information so that you can make the best decisions for your child."

Read safety articles here.

Emma Bunton Expecting Baby No. 2!

Baby Spice is having another baby!

Emma Bunton took to Twitter today to announce that she and partner Jade Jones are expecting their second child together.
"So our family grows. We are SO excited to announce we're having our 2nd baby and Beau's wish for a brother or sister has come true!"
The 34-year-old former Spice Girl recently talked about wanting another baby: "We're going to start trying for another one soon," Emma said. "I hope I fall pregnant nice and quick."

The new addition — who is due in May — will join big brother Beau, 3.

Congratulations to the Bunton-Jones family!


Antibacterial agent could cause pregnancy problems

A chemical found in everything from antibacterial soaps and lotions to socks and toothpaste may disrupt an enzyme that plays an important role in pregnancy, University of Florida researchers say.

Thought to be harmless, triclosan gives many soaps and lotions their antibacterial oomph and is found in hundreds of popular products. But a team of UF researchers led by Margaret O. James has discovered that the chemical hinders an enzyme linked to the metabolism of estrogen. The researchers’ findings are reported in the November print issue of the journal Environment International.

In pregnancy, this enzyme, called estrogen sulfotransferase, helps metabolize estrogen and move it through the placenta into the developing fetus. There, the estrogen plays a crucial role in brain development and the regulation of genes.

“We suspect that makes this substance dangerous in pregnancy if enough of the triclosan gets through to the placenta to affect the enzyme,” said James, a professor and chairwoman of medicinal chemistry in the UF College of Pharmacy. “We know for sure it is a very potent inhibitor. What we don’t know is the kinds of levels you would have to be exposed to to see a negative effect.

“We know it is a problem, but we don’t know how much of a problem. We need to move forward and do additional studies.”

In pregnancy, the placenta basically serves as a developing baby’s in-womb survival kit. Almost everything the fetus gets from its mother — namely food and oxygen — comes through the placenta. It also creates important hormones, such as progesterone and estrogen.

Aside from the role it plays in the fetus, estrogen also affects how much oxygen the baby gets from the mother, said Charles Wood, a professor and chairman of physiology and functional genomics in the UF College of Medicine and a co-author of the study. All of the oxygen a baby gets from its mother flows through the mother’s uterine artery. Without enough estrogen, this artery can constrict, decreasing blood flow.

“If you don’t make enough estrogen you can, we think, starve the baby of enough oxygen,” Wood said.

Estrogen is also involved in signaling the uterus to contract during labor. But maintaining the right levels of the hormone during pregnancy is a delicate balance, Wood says. Too much estrogen could send the mother’s body into premature labor. Too little could hinder the flow of oxygen. Both instances could affect how the baby’s brain develops.

This is one of the reasons scientists are concerned about the pregnancy-related effects of chemicals such as triclosan.

“Some of these (chemicals) can go and combine with estrogen receptors and mimic estrogen or keep estrogen off its receptors or change the metabolism of estrogen, which is what we are looking at with triclosan,” Wood said.

In April 2010, the Food and Drug Administration decided to take a closer look at triclosan after several studies found links to problems with hormone regulation and other possible negative health effects. Other studies have shown that the chemical, which cannot be broken down by bacteria, stays in the environment long after it is used.

“Triclosan is a material that is present in the environment and everyone has low levels. If you use products with triclosan, you will likely have higher levels,” said Bruce Hammock, a professor of entomology at the University of California-Davis who studies triclosan. “It has some real benefits but it is certainly not risk-free.”
More studies are needed before researchers can conclude what effects triclosan really has on human health, James said.

“The triclosan is incorporated into household products because it inhibits bacterial growth,” James said. “But the bad thing is it has this unexpected side effect of inhibiting this important enzyme in the body. At this point we don’t know if the levels people are exposed to are high enough to cause an adverse effect.”


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

This Week's Celebrity Baby Bumps

Ali Larter pairs a form-fitting black dress with black flats, Alanis Morissette shows off her henna on Twitter, Melissa Rycroft bumped it up as Snooki on Halloween, Nina Garcia looks gorgeous after receiving an award, Penelope Cruz adds a scarf to her all-black wardrobe, and Stella McCartney does the school run with her adorable daughter in matching gray coats.
Source Source Source

Stressful Delivery Methods Linked to Aggressive Babies

Babies who undergo a difficult birth and are delivered using forceps are more likely to develop problems such as aggression during childhood compared with those born by cesarean section, according to a study in China.

The researchers believe the behavioral problems may be linked to high levels of cortisol, a hormone the body produces during a stressful and difficult birth.

"The association between mode of delivery and subsequent childhood psychopathology is possibly related to cortisol response," they wrote in a paper published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology on Wednesday.

Previous studies have found that cortisol levels in cord blood are lowest in babies born by elective cesarean, followed by spontaneous vaginal delivery.

The highest levels of cortisol are found in those born by assisted vaginal delivery using forceps or vacuum extraction.

"Cortisol levels have been linked to childhood psychopathology, however, more studies are still needed to look at this in more detail," wrote the scientists, led by Professor Jianmeng Liu, deputy director of the Institute of Reproductive and Child Health at the Peking University Health Science Center.

The study involved 4,190 children who were born in China's southern provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu, and they were assessed between the age of 4 and 6 for problems such as being withdrawn, anxious, depressed, attention difficulties and delinquent and aggressive behavior.

Such problems were lowest in children delivered by cesarean section and highest in those delivered using instruments like forceps and vacuum, the researchers said.

Cesarean births are increasing in China, particularly in the richer southeastern parts of the country where rates have risen to 56 percent in 2006 from 22 percent in 1994.

Cesarean delivery on request by mothers is a major contributor to this trend. It accounted for 3.6 percent of all cesarean births in 1994 and 36 percent in 2006 in southeast China.

Baby Videos Debunked Again

A new study published in Psychological Science "presents empirical evidence that infants who watched an unidentified baby video did not actually learn the words the video purported to teach."

According to the Association for Psychological Science (APS), researchers recruited 96 families with children 12 -18 months old to participate in the month-long study, which was led by Judy S. DeLoache, PhD. of the University of Virginia.
Some children in the study reportedly watched a best-selling infant-learning DVD several times a week, half of them watching alone and half with a parent. Another group had no exposure to the DVD; instead, their parents were asked to try to teach them the words from the DVD in everyday interactions. 

The study’s release follows a recent report on NBC’s Today show  questioning the effectiveness of educational videos and other media publishers say teach infants to read. In the report, the owner of one company disputes statements by childhood development experts who believe babies exposed to the educational materials learn to mimic rather than comprehend words. 
In the DeLoache-led study, before and after the month of vocabulary work, all of the children were tested on a list of words in the DVD. 

According to APS, the researchers say, “Those infants who regularly watched the DVD over 4 weeks learned very little from their exposure to it, regardless of whether they had watched alone or with a parent. They knew no more of the words from the DVD than did children who had never seen it.” 

Interestingly, the researchers say parents who enjoyed the DVD believed their children learned more, which, according to APS, could explain positive testimonials on the manufacturers’ websites and advertisements.

Children are going to learn language anyway, says DeLoache, who adds research shows the best way to help children learn language well is simply talking to them. 

“If you want to show your infant 'baby videos,' that's fine,” she says. “Just don't expect the child to learn a great deal from it." 


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Babies' brains more advanced than previously thought

Research into the development and formation of babies' brains has shown that they are more advanced than previously thought, and that they may spend their time in 'conscious introspection'.

Researchers used functional MRI scanning to look at 'resting state' networks of 70 babies at between 29 and 43 weeks who were receiving treatment at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, and found that they are born with a key collection of networks already formed in their brains, as advanced as a fully grown adult.

Resting state networks are connected systems of neurons that are constantly functioning even when a person is not focusing on a particular task. It had previously been thought that such networks were not fully formed in new born children, being developed during early childhood. However scientists have found evidence that one particular resting state, the default mode network, was fully developed at birth, beginning around the third trimester and usually becoming fully formed around 40 weeks.

The default mode network is highly active when somebody is not involved in a specific task and is thought to be heavily linked to “introspection and dreaming,” according to Imperial College scientists.

"Some researchers have said that the default mode network is responsible for introspection - retrieving autobiographical memories and envisioning the future, etc.,” said Professor David Edwards, lead author of the study from the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London. “The fact that we found it in newborn babies suggests that either being a fetus is a lot more fun than any of us can remember - lying there happily introspecting and thinking about the future - or that this theory is mistaken.

"Our study shows that babies' brains are more fully formed than we thought. More generally, we sometimes expect to be able to explain the activity we can see on brain scans terms of someone thinking or doing some task. However, most of the brain is probably engaged in activities of which we are completely unaware, and it is this complex background activity that we are detecting."

A specially developed “four-dimensional brain atlas” was used to map activity in the brains of babies in order to compare with what is known with other brain networks.  It is hoped that the researchers can now look at how resting state networks are affected by illness, and possibly how to diagnose any problems that may arise.


5 Ways Pregnancy Is Good Practice For Motherhood

Pregnancy has its good and bad points, the most obvious benefit being the end result. Some women hate being pregnant, some women love being pregnant, but most find it a mixed bag. As hard as some of the hard parts can be, there may be a silver lining.

Here are five not-always-so-fun things about being pregnant that can actually help you to be a better parent once your baby is born.

1. Interrupted Sleep
Sleep problems in pregnancy are really common. Wakefulness can be hormonal (pregnant woman have sleep cycles that are more easily interrupted), psychological (there’s plenty to worry about) or physical (no shortage of discomforts to wake you up in the night). One theory is that this less-sound sleep is a way of training the body to deal with middle of the night feedings and frequent wakings of early parenthood.

2. Sacrifice
Giving things up is part of pregnancy. The ever-growing list of no-nos makes pregnancy a time of learning to live without some of the pleasures you may have taken for granted before getting pregnant. Even something as simple as meeting your own needs can be fraught. Though the details change when the baby’s born (or for some women, after breastfeeding) being a mother does involve changing priorities.

3. Difficult Choices
Some of the choices you encounter in pregnancy are as difficult as any you might come across as a parent. Deciding whether or not to undergo prenatal testing, whether to circumcise, or even what to name your kid. This can be a kind of awakening. You have entered the new high stakes world of parenthood.

4. Learning To Negotiate
You and your partner might not always have the same opinion on all those difficult choices. Reconciling different ideas is a crucial part of co-parenting. Pregnancy gives you a head start on that process. Setting up a positive line of communication between partners about hard questions will be really valuable later. The hard questions keep on coming!

5. Identity Change
The transition from nonparent to parent is a radical life change. Pregnancy is sort of the bridge between these identities. You go from seeing the world through your own eyes to thinking in terms of family. The way you think of yourself changes, too, sometimes in complicated ways. Pregnancy can be a time to gradually start making this shift, imagining yourself as a mother before you actually enter the role on a day to day basis. As you process all the new experiences and emotions, you’re actually changing: becoming a mother, whether you can feel it or not!


7 Common Obstacles to Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is truly a group effort. It's not just a pact you make with your mammaries, it's with your baby, your partner, your job, your family, your friends, the hospital you delivered in, and even your community. So many women want to succeed at breastfeeding but there are so many factors that can set you up to fail (factors other than medical reasons that make a woman physically unable to nurse).

There are so many things you need to succeed that have nothing to do with baby. Here are some of the most common obstacles to breastfeeding:
  1. We don't have faith in our bodies. Most (not all) moms can produce milk, enough milk to feed their baby and even babies. (Yes, moms of multiples, too!) With some pediatricians obsessing over a child's weight gain and cross referencing the growth chart of formula fed infants instead of breastfed infants, it's enough to make a mom feel that she's a terrible mom and is starving her baby. (Oh the guilt!) Most of us can produce the right amount of milk that will make our babies thrive. Stressing that you can't can dry you up.
  2. There is no support from the start. The sooner your baby nurses after birth, the greater the chances of breastfeeding success. You can still succeed if baby wasn't able to be at breast right away, however, and the more support you have from the hospital staff, the better. Take advantage of the lactation specialists if your hospital has them. Seriously, even if you think you rule at breastfeeding, enlist their help.
  3. Husbands are discouraging. If your husband is making a bottle of formula the minute you start to complain about sore nipples, you just aren't going to succeed. Your support system at home is vital to your success.
  4. Family isn't supportive. You weren't breastfed and you turned out fine -- sound familiar? Even those words from your mom can be discouraging (even if she doesn't mean harm). If you choose to breastfeed, everyone around you must choose to accept and support you.
  5. Friends don't understand. When you become a mom, your social life changes. If you're breastfeeding, it changes even more. Having supportive friends who understand you aren't going to be able to down margaritas and only have a two- or three-hour window before you have to be back home to nurse baby and still want to hang out with you are not only great friends, but great supporters.
  6. Jobs aren't accommodating. Some jobs have zero support and that's detrimental to pumping while at work. Bathrooms shouldn't be pumping rooms, but they often are. Working moms need more support to succeed when they return to work and the only way we're going to get it is to demand it and team up together to help raise awareness. 
  7. The community makes it difficult. Every week it seems there is another mom who is told to stop nursing in public. ... if you don't like it, look away.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Can You Create a Smarter Baby During Pregnancy?

 A new parenting book by developmental molecular biologist John Medina, a father of two, hit bookstores in early October. It's called "Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five." In his book, Medina unravels how a child's brain develops, and reveals what you can do to optimize it.

One of his chapters is dedicated to pregnancy - what you can do while your baby's still in the womb, and what fetuses are aware of during their stay in the protective environment of your body. He highlights four key points that moms-to-be should be aware of: 

1) In the first half of pregnancy, babies mostly want to be left alone. Medina writes, "From the baby's point of view, the best feature of life in the womb it its relative lack of stimulation." This is the time the embryo's pre-brain is very active, pumping out neurons at an amazing rate of 500,000 cells a minute. To do this, a peaceful, non-interactive environment is just what the baby needs. 

2) Don't waste your money on products claiming to improve a fetus' IQ, temperament or personality. None of them have been proven to work. Some books published in the '90s (and earlier) falsely advertised things such as, "Teach your baby to spell in the womb," "Teach your child a second language before birth" and "Increase your baby's IQ by as much as 30 points." According to Medina, no commercial product has ever been shown to do anything to improve the brain performance of a developing fetus. 

3) In the second half of pregnancy, babies begin to perceive and process a great deal of sensory information. Their sense of smell becomes heightened to the point that they can smell the perfume you wear, the garlic on the pizza you just ate and even the amniotic fluid they're living in. Medina says your baby may actually prefer these comforting smells after birth; it's called "olfactory labeling." He has this advice for moms who have just given birth: Immediately after your baby is born, rub her with her own amniotic fluid before washing her with soap and water. Studies show it will calm the baby down.

4) A mother-to-be can boost her baby's brain development with four things: proper weight gain, a balanced diet, moderate exercise and stress reduction. These have all been scientifically proven to help a fetus' brain develop to its optimal level. Medina also says there are two supplements that are known to influence brain development in utero. One is folic acid; he advises women to take it around the time of conception. The other is omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential components of neurons. Humans have a hard time making omega-3s, so the best way to get them is either by eating fish or taking a supplement. Researchers recommend that pregnant women eat fish that has low concentrations of mercury, such as salmon, cod, sardines and canned white tuna. 


Ian Ziering & Wife Expecting First Child

Congratulations to Ian Ziering and his wife Erin Ludwig!

The happy couple - who were wed in May - are expecting a baby girl in April, the 46-year-old Beverly Hills, 90210 alum tells People.

"Erin and I are very excited to be parents. It's something we both have always wanted," Ziering says. "[Erin] is four-and-a-half months along, and we both are beyond excited."

This will be the first child for the couple.


Peanuts During Pregnancy Could Raise Baby's Allergy Risk

Pregnant women who eat peanuts are more likely to have babies who test positive for peanut allergies than women who don't eat peanuts, according to a new study.

That's because the peanut proteins they eat may circulate to the fetus, and cause an allergic response, said study researcher Dr. Scott Sicherer, pediatrics professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

However, the study found infants are only more likely to test positive for the allergy, not necessarily that they have the allergy. The infants in the study did not try eating peanuts to see if they had an allergy, Sicherer said.

"It is true that we think the strong positive tests indicate a high chance of peanut allergy, but it is not the same thing, because many children with a positive test might be able to eat peanuts," he told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Still, the finding bolsters an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation put forth in 2000 that women with a family history of allergies avoid eating peanut products while pregnant and breast-feeding. That recommendation was withdrawn in 2008 because there wasn’t enough scientific evidence.

"Our study shows there is more to be investigated," Sicherer said.

Researchers evaluated 503 infants, ages 3 to 15 months, who had eczema or tested positive for milk or egg allergies, because these factors are associated with peanut allergy. None of the infants had a previous peanut allergy diagnosis.

The researchers asked the mothers whether they avoided peanuts during pregnancy altogether, or if they ate them twice a week, more than twice a week but less than daily, or daily.

Blood tests showed 140 infants had a strong sensitivity to peanuts. The researchers found the more peanuts the mothers ate during pregnancy, the more likely their infants were to test positive for the sensitivity.

The researchers plan to follow the children over time, to see if they develop a peanut allergy, or if they "outgrow" it, Sicherer said.

The same relationship between a mother's consumption and an infant's allergies was observed for egg allergies in the infants, he said.

In another study, Sicherer said being a boy, being non-white and having high positive tests for milk or egg allergies were also risk factors for having peanut allergy.

Past research has yielded conflicting results, Sicherer said.

"I have had mothers say they ate a lot of peanuts, and think they caused a peanut allergy, and I have had other mothers say they avoided, and wonder why their child has an allergy," he said.

However, there is no definite answer as to what to recommend to mothers, Sicherer said.