Wednesday, November 24, 2010

John Travolta & Kelly Preston Welcome a Son!

Congratulations to John Travolta and Kelly Preston!

The couple welcomed son Benjamin on Tuesday night at a Florida hospital, E! News is reporting. He weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces.

"John, Kelly and their daughter Ella Bleu are ecstatic and very happy about the newest member of the family," a rep said in a statement. "Both mother and baby are healthy and doing beautifully."

I'm sure big sister Ella, 10, is excited - Kelly said in an interview earlier this year that her daughter was busy getting ready for her baby brother's arrival. "Ella has been helping too. She's looking forward to being a big sister."


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Improved Mortality Rates for Heart Birth Defect Patients

Deaths from congenital heart defects in both children and adults have declined substantially in recent years, according to new research.

"From 1999 to 2006, we saw a 24% decrease in death rates resulting from congenital heart disease among all ages," says researcher Suzanne Gilboa, PhD, an epidemiologist at the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC.

The decline continues a trend that has been ongoing for decades, Gilboa says, and wasn't unexpected.
In a comparable study published in 2001, deaths due to congenital heart defects dropped 39% from 1979 to 1997.

"We don't really know why." However, she says, "We speculate it has a lot to do with the kind of treatment that children who are born with congenital heart disease get."

For the new study, Gilboa and her colleagues used data from death certificates filed in the U.S. from 1999 to 2006, calculating the annual death rates from congenital heart disease by age at death, sex, and ethnicity.

They looked only at death rates, not whether congenital heart disease itself was increasing or decreasing.

Among the congenital heart disease diagnoses were atrial septal defect (the wall separating the upper chambers or atria doesn't close completely), ventricular septal defect (one or more holes in the wall separating the right and left ventricles), and patent ductus arteriosus (failure of a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus to close, resulting in abnormal blood flow).

Obesity and diabetes both increase the risk of having a child with a congenital heart defect, Gilboa says. "Smoking during the first trimester is another risk factor for having a child with a congenital heart defect."


Monday, November 22, 2010

Safe Artisan Cheeses During Pregnancy

Between missing wine and cheese, the cocktail hour can be a sad time for a pregnant lady.

Pregnant women are usually told to avoid soft, runny or veiny cheeses because they have a higher risk of listeria development. Listeria Monocytogenes is a bacteria commonly found in the farm environment, among other places. It can contaminate cheesemaking equipment, and from there, cheese. The New York Times reported over the weekend that a recent survey of large and small cheese manufacturers found listeria in about 1/4 of the facilities.

Considering how rare listeria infection is (it affects about 2500 people per year in the U.S) that’s a pretty high number. Listeria’s not an issue for most of the general population, but those with compromised immune systems can become dangerously ill from the bacteria. And pregnant women have to be especially careful because if the fetus becomes infected, there can be dire consequences.  The reason young cheese is riskier is twofold: the more hospitable environment it creates for bacteria, and the common use of unpasteurized milk in these cheeses. Older cheeses can also be made with unpasteurized milk, but the bacteria cannot live for more than 90 days.

Nevertheless, there are lots of yummy, fancy, runny, moldy and otherwise off-limits-seeming cheeses that are not out of your pregnant reach.

If you’re craving Brie, try….
1. Robiola Bosina, From Caseficio Alta Langa, Italy
Robiola Bosina
“This luscious little slab of mild, creamy goodness is made from the pasteurized milk of Piedmont cows and sheep, making for a perfectly balanced set of flavors: mushroomy, salty, and sweet. Bosina’s silky interior has been known to run from the tender, edible rind ever so gently across the plate when given the time to warm up, so be ready with slices of crusty bread in one hand and a flute of Prosecco* in the other.” (*Or, of course, sparkling cider)
2. St. Marcellin, from Fromagerie Curtet, France
St. Marcellin
“This one’s a soft-ripened disk of sweet, pasteurized cow milk from the northern French province of Dauphine. It has a golden crust and unparalleled silky texture. Aged about one month, the flavor is comparable to Brie de Meaux: mushroomy, truffly and earthy with a delicate residual tang. As it ripens further, the flavors become robust, while the softening texture becomes more dependent on its ceramic home for stability.”
If you’re craving fresh soft cheese, try….
2. La Tur, From Caseficio Alta Langa, Italy
La Tur
“From the great wine region of Piemonte comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk. Runny and oozing around the perimeter with a moist, cakey, palette-coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full, with a lingering lactic tang. The effect is like ice cream served from a warm scoop; decadent and melting from the outside in.”
4. Coach Farms Fresh Goat Cheeses (All products from this farm are made with pasteurized milk.)
If you’re craving Blue, try…
5. Gorgonzola from Ciresa, Italy.
Gorgonzola Mountain
This producer makes two kinds of Italian blue, a spicy Mountain Gorgonzola, and the softer, sweeter Gorgonzola Cremificado.
6. Stilton from Tuxford & Tebbutt, England
Stilton, Tuxford  & Tebbutt
“Made with pasteurized cow’s milk, it is ripened 3-4 months under carefully controlled cool, humid conditions. Unlike other blues, Stilton’s veining comes about by piercing the wheel as many as 300 times after one month of aging, allowing the blue to develop in the cheese with the introduction of oxygen.”


Facebook Bans Breastfeeding Photos but Facilitates Milk-Sharing

In one of the photos that keeps getting Emma Kwasnica's Facebook account suspended, the Montreal-based mother and breastfeeding activist is tandem nursing, with a newborn at one breast and a two-year-old at the other. Classical art and public health be damned, Facebook has censored countless breastfeeding photos for violating the company's terms of use, a policy that has inspired more than 250,000 people to join a Facebook group called "Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding Is Not Obscene!" Kwasnica has protested her four account suspensions by e-mailing administrators and keeps doggedly reposting photographs and organizing virtual "nurse-ins" via her Facebook group, Informed Choice: Birth and Beyond. But last month it occurred to her that the global breast-feeding community could use social media to organize real-world, offline "lactivism," in the form of milk sharing.

The result is a new network called Eats on Feets — a play on Meals on Wheels — that uses Facebook to connect women whose babies need supplemental breast milk to women nearby who have extra milk to give away. Shell Walker, a midwife in Phoenix, came up with the name and created the original page to facilitate local matches. But Kwasnica, who had already made several matches via her Informed Choice page, took the idea global, and in just a few weeks the network has grown to 98 local groups, spanning all 50 states in the U.S. and 22 countries. More than 70 matches have been reported so far, with milk coming not only in bags and jars, but also sometimes directly from the source.

Women have been sharing breast milk for eons (remember wet nurses?), but the practice has been stigmatized in modern society, especially in the age of HIV. Milk banks screen and pasteurize donated milk and give priority to premature and very ill babies, essentially preventing most families from accessing the milk. And for those who can get banked milk, it is often prohibitively expensive: $3 to $5 per oz., upwards of $100 for a day's supply.

Although informal milk sharing is not standard practice in the U.S., the World Health Organization recommends "raw" donor milk if a mother's own supply won't suffice. "Milk from another human in any manner that's safe from disease is the logical and healthiest next best," says Miriam Labbok, a professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina and director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute.

Most women in the U.S. try to breastfeed, but many hit roadblocks. Facebook, however, is helping women turn to each other before they turn to formula. Jeannine Fisk of Eau Claire, Wis., knew she wasn't producing enough milk for her son when he was 4 weeks old and still not gaining weight. When a midwife suggested that she use donated milk, another mother who was at the birth center offered to pump some milk for Fisk right then and there. Fisk got another 5 oz. from a neighbor and found three more donors via the "Hey Facebook" page and Craigslist. She saw her son grow from wan to chubby, and within three months she was able to increase her own milk production. Now, she's donating her oversupply and administrating the Wisconsin Eats on Feets page.

Eats on Feets encourages women to make informed choices and provides information about risks and precautions, like flash-heating the milk. Research out of the University of California at Berkeley shows that a simple stove-top method kills bacteria and HIV. This makes milk sharing not so different from other feeding methods. "We need to be concerned with safety however we're feeding, whether we're using formula, goats' milk, breast milk," says Walker. "All of those need care and attention."

As more and more women recognize the benefits of breast-feeding, experts predict there will be more demand for human milk, particularly in the U.S., which is the only industrialized country that does not guarantee paid maternity leave — and thus makes it difficult for working moms to breast-feed their babies. In December, the FDA will hold a meeting on milk banking. "There are quite a few of us [in the public health community] who believe that we need to face it and do something about it," says Labbok. The virtual village, it seems, is one step ahead of them.

Read more:,8599,2032363,00.html#ixzz162nd0W5I

Baby Shower for Moms of Preemies

When they gave her the tiny T-shirt, Crystal Arjona nearly cried.

On the front was a smiling zebra, above the words "especially cute" in cursive. It matched a pair of little striped pants with footsies and pink bows.

But what made this shirt perfect for Arjona's 1-month-old girl, Anaiya Longoria, were the little pink snaps that opened the shirt from the front.

"Room for all the cords and wires," someone explained.

It was Meghan Armstrong who said it. Armstrong helped organize a baby shower for Arjona and six other mothers of babies in Brandon Regional Hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.

They gathered in a spare hospital classroom with "BABY SHOWER" banners on the white walls and purple tablecloths on fold-out tables. They played games, nibbled cupcakes and guessed how many diapers were in a cake-shaped diaper tower.

It was a rare hour and a half away from the cold unit where Anaiya and other babies live in incubators. For many of the mothers, it was the first taste of happy congratulations.

Anaiya's birth came two months early, on Oct. 18 by emergency C-section. It was a week until doctors let Arjona hold her.

"I cried and cried," Arjona remembered. "All I did was cry."

Anaiya is Arjona's third child, but she's the first preemie. It means Arjona pumps her breast milk every two hours instead of nursing. She feels a jolt of anxiety every time her cell phone rings and a blanket of guilt when she's at home.

It means she never had a baby shower. Hardly any of these moms did. The babies arrived before invitations were sent, before cribs were assembled, before anyone was really ready.

So with their babies still attached to monitors across the street, Arjona and the other moms celebrated for the first time, courtesy of local preemie support group Mommies Little Miracles and the county Healthy Start Coalition's Help U Grow program. The groups chose November, Prematurity Awareness Month, for baby showers at Brandon Regional, Tampa General, St. Joseph's, University Community, Mease Countryside and Lakeland Regional hospitals.

"Even having a baby in the unit one day can be traumatic," Cindy Collins, who works with Help U Grow, told the group of mothers.

Between games and a raffle, the mothers flipped through a scrapbook filled with pictures of premature babies who have since gone home.

Two moms at the shower were now part of that group. They brought their babies to the party.

"Must be nice," said mother Valerie Boston.

Arjona flipped over another page in the scrapbook.

"Look how much they grew," Boston said.

"Anaiya's so little," Arjona whispered. Sometimes, she said, she wants to tuck her in her purse and sneak her out.

Boston let out a laugh.

Arjona finally smiled.

Debbie Mak, a grandmother of a preemie, attended the shower in her daughter's place. She excused herself to take a phone call.

Doctors induced labor and delivered baby Cash on Nov. 2 after his mother's blood pressure reached dangerous levels.

After a few minutes, Mak ran back inside clapping. Everyone turned to look.

"He can go home!" Mak said. "We're going home!"

Arjona didn't hear. She had already walked out the door, headed back to the hospital to tuck her tiny baby into her too-big T-shirt.