Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Wrap-up: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Penelope Cruz Looks Great One Month after Giving Birth [Celebitchy]

Duke Study Links Pitocin to Postpartum Hemorrhage [The Indy Channel]

Pumping at Work: The Government Asks Working Moms How They Do It [Time]

Breast milk ice cream goes on sale in Covent Garden [BBC News]

Men Go To Birthing Classes for Partner [UPI]

Should Children Learn a Second Language? [Chicago Tribune]

Brain function linked to birth size in new study [Scientist Live]

Susan Sarandon Wears Bracelet with Children’s Teeth [Popeater]

Breastfeeding Program for Premature Babies Goes Online [UC San Diego]

Baby Names Differ by Region of US

A new study has revealed an interesting trend in baby names: babies born in newer states are given more distinct names than babies in older states. Frontier states, such as Oregon and Washington are considered newer and where more unusual baby names are prevalent. Older states, like the original 13, are home to more babies with popular names. The study was released in this month's issue of Psychological Science.

The differences are believed to correspond with the type of people who are attracted to each type of state. Frontier states are believed to attract more independent individuals, leading to communities that foster values such as self-reliance and uniqueness.

Laura Wattenberg, of, told LiveScience. "Sarah Palin, even though she talks about traditional values, she's a perfect representative of frontier naming." Her kids are named Track, Willow, Trig, Bristol and Piper.

The study, led by Michael Varnum of the University of Michigan, found that the longer a state had held statehood, the more likely its residents were to have names from the top 10 baby name lists.

The states with the most unique baby names: Hawaii, Wyoming, Louisiana, Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Mississippi, Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Alaska, South Carolina, Washington, and Oregon.

States with the most popular baby names: New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Maine, New York, Tennessee, Kentucky, Vermont, North Dakota, and Iowa.

The researchers saw a similar trend in Canada and European countries, where the newer territories contained people with more unusual names.

Have you found this trend to be true in your personal experience?

Babies in Frontier States Have More Unusual Names [Yahoo! News]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Report Details Detriments of Work Policies in the US on Parents, Children

Human Rights Watch has released a report this week that examines how a lack of policy dictating paid leave, breastfeeding accommodation, and discrimination against workers with families is contributing to a list of problems among American workers and businesses. The report compared the United States's family policies to other countries' and found significant issues for workers' health, finances, and careers. The 90 page report is titled: "Failing its Families: Lack of Paid Leave Work-Family Supports in the US."

Many of the items covered in the report will come as no surprise to working parents. Based on 64 interviews with parents conducted across the country, the organization found that a lack of parental leave after childbirth leads many parents to delay immunizing their babies and to quit breastfeeding early. Those who took unpaid leave were often left in debt and needing social services.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in the US, only 11 percent of workers have paid family leave benefits and that number is declining. Only two states, California and New Jersey, have policies in place to ensure public paid leave, mostly funded through small business taxes. In terms of productivity, profitability, and worker morale, the results of these programs have been rated positive or neutral by employers.

Studies conducted in countries that offer paid leave and accommodate for breastfeeding have shown increased breastfeeding, lower infant mortality rates, higher rates of immunizations and a lower risk of postpartum depression. More than 178 countries guarantee paid leave for new mothers, and more than fifty for new fathers. More than 100 countries guarantee 14 weeks or more of paid leave for new mothers. The report calculated the public cost of maternity leave at an average of .03 percent of the country’s GDP. The funding typically comes from a variety of sources, not solely from employers.

Finally, the report calls on Congress and state legislatures to provide public paid leave for new parents and for workers caring for family members with serious health problems. Government bodies should enhance legislation to benefit breastfeeding mothers, and promote flexible work schedules. Lastly, they should provide protection for families who are discriminated against due to parental responsibilities.

You can read the report in its entirety here.

Do you think these kinds of public policies should be put in place?

US: Lack of Paid Leave Harms Workers, Children [Human Rights Watch]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Best of the Web: Pregnancy and Parenting News

Baby Trashes Bar in Las Palmas [YouTube]

Got Breastmilk? A New La Leche League Campaign [The OC Register]

Baby Experts Latch On to New Breast Bottle [SF Chronicle]

Rufus Wainwright has Baby with Leonard Cohen’s Daughter [Guardian News UK]

Egyptian Names His Baby ‘Facebook’ [Gawker]

The Innate Genius of Baby Brains [Huffington Post]

Baby Born at 23 Weeks Had Time on Her Side [LATimes]

Brain Waves Detect Babies Potential Risk of Autism [ABC News]

Oprah Gives Parents of Sextuplets a Sizable Gift [Daily Mail]

Strange Political Debate over Breastfeeding

Just as the Internal Revenue Service was declaring breast pumps and other breastfeeding supplies tax deductible, First Lady Michelle Obama was unveiling her breastfeeding initiative. Republican legislators are now saying that the left is trying to create a "nanny state," by involving the government in a family's personal decisions.

No one in the debate is saying that breastfeeding is not good for mother and baby, but opponents are critical of the new tax breaks. Rep. Michelle Bachmen, (R) –Minnesota, said:

"I've given birth to five babies and I breast-fed every single one of these babies, and to think that the government has to go out and buy my breast pump for my babies. I mean, you want to talk about the nanny state? I think you just got a new definition of the nanny."

Notable Republican and former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, jokingly said: "It’s no wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you better breastfeed your baby — yeah, you better — because the price of milk is so high right now.” She has criticized Michelle’s campaign against childhood obesity previously by saying: “What she is telling us is she cannot trust parents to make decisions for their own children, for their own families in what we should eat.” Palin publically supported breastfeeding in 2007.

The IRS has responded to inquiries about its recent change for breastfeeding supplies as not politically motivated and says it was a legal decision. The American Academy of Pediatrics has lobbied the IRS in the past to provide incentives for breastfeeding. With the recent change, a tax break can be applied retroactively to purchases made within 2010 in addition to future purchases. A mother can either place the money for breastfeeding supplies in a pre-tax flexible spending account, provided by her employer or itemize and deduct the cost of the supplies from her taxes upon filing (but only if her medical expenses exceed 7.5% of her income).

The comment that instigated the debate came as Michelle Obama was celebrating the year’s anniversary of her “Let’s Move” campaign, which aims to lower childhood obesity. When asked during the celebration ‘what’s next,’ she replied: "Breast-feeding. Kids who are breast-fed longer have a lower tendency to be obese.” Michelle had mentioned this objective months prior: "Because it's important to prevent obesity early, we're also working to promote breast-feeding, especially in the black community, where 40% of our babies never get breast-fed at all, even in the first weeks of life," she said in September, 2010.

The connection between breastfeeding and obesity is not well understood but largely accepted as fact and several studies have confirmed the correlation.

The debate over the new tax code is raising many questions such as; should stay-at-home-moms who formula-feed be given a tax break as well? What do you think?

Mother’s milk stirs unlikely debate [CNN]

Palin: For breastfeeding before mocking it [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: Mama Never Told Me

There are a lot of things that you expect during your pregnancy, even if you've never been pregnant before; weight gain, moodiness, nausea... what you may not expect are all the strange things that people will say to you. Emily Van Do was so surprised by the strange commentary she received during her pregnancy that she decided to write it all down. The result is a jaw-dropping book that sheds light on the strange things people say to pregnant women.

“Should you be eating that?” and “What, are you hormonal now?” are just a couple of the intrusive comments Emily shares in her illustrated book.  The quirky illustrations and snippets of conversations create a quick, funny book that provides a tiny view into the often misguided way people treat pregnant women. This book is perfect for an expectant mother who feels some of the comments she’s received are out of line, or for a family member who just doesn’t understand what it’s like.

Purchase a copy and learn more on

What's the strangest thing someone has said to you while pregnant? 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pregnancy in Art

These days, photography, paintings and other types of art often portray the beauty of the pregnant form. There was a time, though, when seeing a pregnant figure in art was rare unless it was of the Virgin Mary. Regardless, some famous artists still took the leap and painted pregnant women.

Jan van Eyck's The Arnolfini Portrait is possibly the most debated painting among art historians. It's unclear whether the woman in this painting is actually pregnant or was depicted this way as a hope for future fertility.

   Raphael also took part in painting pregnant women, with his simply titled Portrait of a Pregnant Woman (La Donna Grivada 1506).

Gustav Klimt is well-known for his images of mothers. Displayed are two of his paintings of pregnant women, one called “Hope” and the other commonly referred to as “Hope two.” Juxtaposing death with the beginnings of life provides much discussion among art scholars.

Are there any paintings of mothers that you love?

Adult Brain Activity Observed Before Birth

Scientists know relatively little about fetal brain development but a recent study reveals that some fetal brain activity is exactly like an adult's. Researchers and medical professionals have previously observed a phenomenon in the brain of sleeping adults, where a rhythmic "lighting up" and quieting of neurons occurs. A study released in The Journal of Neuroscience this month reports these same pulses of activity occur in the brains of developing fetuses.

The researchers focused on the cerebral cortex activity in 20- and 21-week-old fetuses and found bursts of neurological activity, followed by periods of quiet. This pattern is also found in adults when under anesthesia or sleeping. The cerebral cortex handles emotions, sensory processing, thinking and consciousness, although it exhibits this steady activity even when not receiving input from the outside world.

Scientists are not sure what causes this brain activity in either developing fetuses or adults. Neuroscientist Srdjan Antic, leader of the study, suggests that the activity could be a type of mental muscle flexing to keep the cells alive. In mice, a similar type of activity helps to wire the developing nervous system, connecting the correct parts of the brain to the corresponding body part. Some scientists believe that this pulsing could be part of a mapping process.

What these scientists have discovered may be the starting point for a number of neurological disorders, perhaps even autism. At the very least, it is fascinating to know that you are experiencing a phenomenon that your 20-week-old bean is also experiencing.

How many weeks pregnant are you?

Adult Brain Activity Stirs Before Birth [Wired]