Friday, May 27, 2011

Friday Wrap-up: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Bryce Dallas Howard Expecting Baby No. 2 [CelebrityBabyScoop]

7 Ways to Freak Out a New Dad [TheStir]

 Family Gets $58 Million In Record-Breaking Malpractice Suit [HuffPo]

Breastfeeding For a Month Cuts Mom's Diabetes Risk [HealthNews]

Prenatal vitamins reduce the risk of autism by half [LATimes]

Could Conjoined Twins Share a Mind? [NYTimes]

Home Birth Supply Kit [Babble]

Experts give advice on driving while pregnant [ABC]

Poems for new parents [coolmompicks]

Cool, Affordable Gifts for Father's Day [iVillage]

Babies May Perform 'Pure Reasoning,' Study Suggests [USNews]

Nuclear radiation affects baby gender [UPI]

Infant Cries as a Gauge for Language Development

Most of us don't think about the slight variations in a baby's cries - we simply try to fix whatever is causing the upset. However, some parents listen closely and have learned how to pick up on the varying tones that could mean different things (see Dunstan Baby Language). Even the parents who listen closely though may not have understood that those variations are the basis of language development and a lack of variation could be an early indicator of problems.

German researchers have made an interesting discovery: two month old babies whose cries lack complexity are more likely to have trouble with language by age two. During the study, researchers found that the babies whose cries were complex less than 45% of the time were likely to have poor language development skills in the future. Babies that displayed complexity over 45% of the time were ruled out from developing language delays 89% of the time.

The cries of a newborn are rather predictable; the sound follows a single rise and then falling arc. As babies get older, they begin to add complexity by changing the melody and adding pauses, which aids them in uttering syllables. By two months of age, infants typically cry with complex patterns over 50% of the time. The study suggests that simply listening for the frequency of complex cries could help parents learn early-on that their child will need extra assistance with language.

Do you notice the differences in your baby’s cries?

Infants' cries may predict later language development [health24]

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gender Neutral Babies

It's typically pink for girls and blue for boys, unless you're one of the many parents who opt not to learn their child's sex before they're born. However, once the baby arrives, their sex inevitably becomes a defining influence on how they are treated and who they become. That's why one couple in Canada has chosen to keep their four-month-old's sex a secret from others, which has ignited a passionate parenting debate across the web.

Will treating a baby girl like a princess define her life choices? Will a boy who is challenged to be tougher become more of a man? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg in the debate over how our gender influences our lives. Androgyny in the fashion world and an increasing acceptance of the LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transsexual) community have gradually pushed the idea of gender as a social construct into the spotlight. Do we act our gender because it is innate or because we are treated a specific way?

Although there are some biological tendencies, the way we treat our children is a major influence. Dr. William Pollack of Harvard University says,” There are different hardwired tendencies that we see in certain boys and girls, but by far the most potent effect is how we as parents relate to them…”

On the other hand, some seemingly superficial gender differences, such as a preference for glitter among girls, may have more to do with nature than we think. Research in 2009 by Texas A&M University found that babies four months old gravitated towards toys that are traditionally associated with their gender, for example, boys seemed to inherently like dump trucks.

Certain behaviors are widely believed to be biological. Boys have consistently been observed to be more physically active than girls and girls pick up language at a faster rate early on (although boys do catch up later). Boys also tend to be more naturally aggressive, although this trait has never been correlated with higher levels of testosterone, as is commonly believed.

Some tendencies associated with gender which seem innate are usually not. For example, girls consistently score better when associating facial expressions with emotions in studies – no surprise there. However, it is surprising when you consider that newborn boys are more emotionally reactive than baby girls (i.e. crying more) and other studies have found that boys actually feel more emotion than girls when exposed to the same stimulus. A defining difference between the two genders is that girls have been observed to be better equipped to cope with their emotions. These kinds of differences are most likely products of social construction.

When the Canadian couple revealed that they were raising their child Storm “genderless,” many people criticized their willingness to experiment with their child’s upbringing in such a way. Others reacted with the feeling that placing so much emphasis on a child’s “genderlessness” actually might have the opposite of the intended effect; leading the child to feel overly concerned with gender. The parents say the choice is: “a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).” Other parents have raised their children “genderless” with similar sentiments. A Swedish couple with a “genderless” two-year-old in 2009 said: “We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset…” Anna Nordenstrom, a pediatric endocrinologist commenting on the Swedish couple’s choice said: “It will affect the child, but it’s hard to say if it will hurt the child… It’s going to make the child different, make them very special.”

How do you feel about raising a child “genderless”?

Raising Cain: protecting the emotional life of boys [Google Books]
Your Child's Gender Identity [Parenting]
Can You Really Raise A Genderless Child? [Jezebel]
Keeping the Gender of a 2-Year-Old Secret [NYTimes]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Amino Acid and Antioxidants Lower Risk for Preeclampsia

A recent study has uncovered enormous benefits for pregnant women who consume the amino acid L-arginine in combination with antioxidants. Women who participated in the study had a significant reduction in the risk of preeclampsia when they regularly consumed bars containing these two components before week 24 of their pregnancy.

The study completed at City University in Mexico City enrolled 672 pregnant women at risk of preeclampsia due to a previous diagnosis or family history of the disease. All the women began the study between 14 and 32 weeks pregnantand were split into three groups. The first group was provided with two nutritional bars a day, called Heart Bars, which contained L-arginine and antioxidants. The second group was given bars that contained only antioxidants and the third group was used as the control. The group of women who ate the combination bars reflected a significantly decreased rate of preeclampsia, whereas the group that consumed the antioxidant-only bars experienced only a slight reduction. As an aside to the study, the group that ate the combination bars also had a lower risk for preterm birth.

On average, people in the United States consume about 5.4g of L-arginine a day. Two of the bars equated to 6.6g of L-arginine. The amino acid is present in red meat, poultry, fish and dairy products. Vegan sources include sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, spirulina, watercress, mustard greens and spinach. It is traditionally used in supplement form to help support cardiovascular health, decrease dementia, and to treat male infertility. The positive health effects are attributed to the way L-arginine converts to nitric oxide in the body, which opens blood vessels for improved blood flow. It also stimulates the release of insulin. Supplements of L-arginine are not recommended during pregnancy, so obtaining it through your diet is essential.

Where are you getting L-arginine in your diet?

Dietary Supplement Cuts Risk of Preeclampsia [MedPageToday]
Effect of supplementation during pregnancy with L-arginine and antioxidant vitamins in medical food on pre-eclampsia in high risk population: randomised controlled trial [BMJ]
L – Arginine [NIH]
Foods highest in Arginine [Self]

Best of the Web: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Worried about radiation in breast milk? [Grist]

Ask the expert: Flexible jobs after the baby arrives? [Pregnancy360]

The Hypocrisy of Being Green and Making Babies [HuffPo]

Certain Antibiotics During Pregnancy May Be Safe [MSN]

FDA warns parents, caregivers not to use formula additive [KY3]

Phoenix woman gives birth to baby she carried outside of womb [azcentral]

Study Gives New View of 'Full-Term' Pregnancy [WebMD]

Hundreds protest "breastfeeding ban" in Georgia [WHEC]

Weight Gain Between Pregnancies Raises Gestational Diabetes Risk [WebMD]

Asante Samuel helping single moms [ESPN]

Zoloft Birth Defect Lawsuits [Aboutlawsuits]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

David Schwimmer Welcomes a Baby Girl!

David Schwimmer's photo: Hey everyone.  Please welcome my daughter, Cleo, to this crazy but wonderful world. Friend's star David Schwimmer (44) is officially a first-time dad! His wife, Zoe Buckman (25), delivered a baby girl the couple named Cleo on Sunday, May 8th in New York. The couple have been dating since 2007 and were wed last June. Schwimmer tweeted the photo to the right with the message:

"Hey everyone. Please welcome my daughter, Cleo, to this crazy but wonderful world."

Congratulations to the happy couple!

David Schwimmer Welcomes Baby Girl [People]
@DavidSchwimmer [Twitter]

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Controversy of Breast Milk Sharing for Profit

Breast milk is in high demand these days as we continue to learn about the many benefits of breastfeeding. Preemies in particular benefit greatly from consuming breast milk instead of formula. Across the country, hospitals pay a premium to breast milk banks in order to provide the benefits of breast milk to their most needy newborns. However, there is another type of breast milk sharing that is taking place online that the FDA is increasingly concerned about.

The supply-and-demand principles of breastfeeding are not always so cut and dry. Many mothers find that no matter how much the demand increases, the supply never follows suit. Other times, a mother will produce so much milk that she can regularly fill a freezer with her extra. Both cases are normal and there are a number of possible causes at the root of either issue. The mother with an oversupply can donate her milk to a milk bank, where it undergoes testing for pathogens and diseases. Unfortunately, the mother with low supply can’t just order donor breast milk from the milk bank; she would need to have a doctor’s recommendation based on health issues evident in her child. It might be this disconnect that gave rise to a private online breast milk sharing network, with suppliers charging between $1 and $2.50 per ounce. 

The FDA issued a warning in 2010 against the practice of breast milk sharing due to the possibility of spreading infection if the breast milk is not properly tested. Nevertheless, under the eye of the government breast milk is not considered a bodily fluid, it’s considered a food that can be freely bought and sold. Websites such as Craigslist and Ebay still classify breast milk as a bodily fluid, the sale of which is not permitted. Websites dedicated to the buying and selling of breast milk have emerged but they do not offer any kind of testing before purchasing.

It’s not just mothers looking for breast milk to supplement their newborns on these milk-sharing networks. Breast milk can cure many health issues including pink eye and ulcers and some research has suggested it could even cure cancer, which is why some people are buying breast milk simply for its healing properties. Adoptive parents and single fathers are other groups that often purchase breast milk. 

The increased trading of breast milk for profit is undercutting the nonprofit industry, which sells breast milk at a relatively high price in order to cover the costs of lab tests. Health insurance does not cover the purchase. Untested milk is undercutting the nonprofit price and mothers are actually able to pocket money from the sale. It’s easy to see how there is a growing problem for hospitalized infants who desperately need breast milk. Plus, the time-consuming processing involved with nonprofit milk banks can deter many busy moms.

Despite the problems for nonprofits, the major concern over the trading of untested breast milk online is on the potential danger of exposing infants to pathogens. A study of donated breast milk completed at Stanford University found that 3.3% of donors tested positive for conditions such as syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and human T-cell lymphotropic virus.

Another problem with breast milk being bought and sold is the potential for fraud. Donor sites paid mothers for their contributions in the past but quickly learned that the incentive led to misleading practices. In one case, a mother was cutting her breast milk with cow’s milk and there are concerns over drug addicted mothers selling their milk. Regardless, for some mothers with healthy breast milk, the compensation for their extra supply is a welcomed boost in their income.

The issue is clearly complicated and there are no quick, sweeping solutions at hand. There are good reasons to regulate the sale of breast milk, but it would be almost impossible to enforce. Plus, making breast milk more widely available to those who need it is undoubtedly a positive thing. The problem lies with testing and there seems to be a big opening in the marketplace for a for-profit breast milk sharing company that actually completes safety testing on the substance. 

What do you think about the buying and selling of breast milk online?

Banking on Breastmilk [Breastfeeding]
Liquid Gold: The Booming Market for Human Breast Milk [Wired]
The Breast Milk Black Market [Jezebel]

Vermont Passes Law for Insurers to Cover Homebirth

In a move that pushes for mainstream acceptance of homebirth as a viable birth choice, Vermont has just passed a law that requires insurers to cover homebirths in the state. Vermont has the highest number of people who give birth at home, at 3% of all births. The new law follows in the footsteps of New York, New Hampshire and New Mexico, which all have similar legislation in place.

Homebirths cost much less than hospital births, but across the nation women have been forced to pay for the services of a midwife out-of-pocket. The average cost for homebirth in Vermont is approximately $3,500 and are already covered for low-income residents of Vermont under the state health insurance program.

Insurers naturally opposed the bill, claiming that research shows that homebirth is not as safe as hospital birth and that the costs will be much higher if the woman is transferred to a hospital during labor.

In the end, whether a mother would like a homebirth or a hospital birth, it’s only right for the choice to be made through research and introspection, instead of through worry over cost.

Would you consider a homebirth if it was covered by insurance?

Home births to be insured in Vermont [Today