Looking Beyond the Label: Family Health & Nutrition

When you are shopping for food and snacks for your family, do you see words like “pure” and “natural” and “contains real fruit” and toss it in the cart, thinking it’s a healthy choice?

Don’t be so quick to judge a package by it’s label! Many of these appealing descriptions are simply misleading, and it’s always advisable to get out  your reading glasses and try to decipher the list of ingredients on the back of the package (they do put some of those lists in tiny letters, don’t they?!).

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While the labels usually don’t outright lie, they can use tricky terms that stretch the truth more than you’d believe. As a parent it’s especially important to ignore the hype and be aware of the following trendy terms:

  • Pure: Well, you don’t want contaminated food, do you? But “pure” actually has no regulated meaning in food labeling and doesn’t tell you about things in the package that perhaps should not be there.
  • Natural: It sounds so appealing, but is probably the least trustworthy term. Consumers think it means that this food is as good as freshly picked off the tree… but it really says nothing about the nutritional quality or safety of the food.
  • Made From… The food may have started out with whatever is printed on the label, but who knows to what extent the food is then diluted, processed, or hydrogenated. It may be quite far removed from the actual food it is originally “made from.”
  • Made with real fruit/veges: The law does not require the label to say how much real fruit is in the product. So you may have a tiny percentage of fruit in a product that is mostly sugar.
  • Made with whole grains: Check the list of ingredients and you may be surprised to see that the product contain mostly refined flour with just a small amount of whole wheat added.
  • Fat Free: Suppose a food is labeled 95 percent “fat-free.” This means that five percent of the total weight of the food is fat, (which may not seem like much), yet a single gram of fat contains nine calories – compared to four calories in a gram of protein or carbohydrates. Five grams of fat in 100 grams of dark-meat turkey represents one-fourth of the calories in that serving.
  • Enriched: This often means that after doing something to the food that removed many of it’s nutrients, another process was required to put some of the good stuff back in. For example, enriched white bread is not as healthy as its whole wheat counterpart.
  • Smoked: This term legally describes the flavor of the food. So while you might imagine your food being smoked in an old-fashioned smokehouse, it could actually be artificially or chemically smoked, or just contain smoked flavoring.
  • Fruit drinks: These may contain little or no real fruit juice, and might be mostly sugar and water. If it says “high in vitamin C,” it may have added vitamins but still be a long way from real orange juice.
  • Organically grown, organic, pesticide-free, all natural, and no artificial ingredients: None of these terms say much about the nutritional value or safety of the product. Trust only labels that say “certified organically grown, which means that the food was grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in soil free of these substances.

For more information on family nutrition and being label-savvy, visit AskDrSears.com, or click on one of the following links!

Prenatal Vitamins Help Prevent Autism

Another huge reason for taking prenatal vitamins! In addition to warding off birth defects and assisting with proper fetal growth, a new study shows that taking prenatal vitamins may help prevent autism and autism spectrum disorders, reducing the risk by some 40 percent.

According to researchers, the three months before conception and the first month of pregnancy are the most vital times for taking prenatal vitamins. So women who want to or may become pregnant should be particularly vigilant during this time frame.

Folic acid is one of the essential ingredients in prenatal vitamins, and plays a major role in healthy fetal development.  Talk to your doctor about a healthy diet and appropriate prenatal vitamins.

The Breastfeeding-Cosleeping-Postpartum Depression Connection

These days, it’s rare to find anyone who’s gonna argue with you that breastfeeding is best for baby, whenever possible.  What they don’t realize is that breastfeeding is best for MOM, too.  And there are still plenty of people with their fists up, ready to knock down any mention of co-sleeping, despite all the benefits that co-sleeping moms and babies report (that is, I’m sure the babies would report, if they could speak!)!

So I was intrigued to read Nancy Mohrbacher‘s blog entry, Formula Supplements Put Mothers at Risk, which explains a number of reasons that breasfeeding and cosleeping are best for mom as well as baby.

Many moms are mistakenly informed that if they bottle feed and let someone else help with night feedings, they will sleep better and longer. Some people also believe that if mom sleeps separate from her baby, she will sleep better, undisturbed.  They conclude that a well-rested mother will be better equipped to hand the stresses of the post-partum period, thus relieving symptoms of postpartum depression.

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Not so, says a new study!

This study, which will appear in the June issue of the journal Clinical Lactation, surveyed 6410 mothers during the first year after birth.  Although all new mothers experience fatigue, it found that exclusively breastfeeding mothers not only slept significantly more hours during the night than other mothers but also reported significantly more energy during the day, a better mood, better overall health, and a greater sense of well-being.  Another surprising finding was that there was no statistically significant difference in any of these areas between the mixed-feed and the exclusively formula-feeding groups. (From Formula Supplements Put Mothers at Risk)

So while we all want to make sure new mothers, especially those at-risk for PPD, are happy and well-rested, strategies that separate and supplement newborns are misguided.  Instead of making mom’s life easier, they actually put her at greater risk of poor sleeping, poor health, and depression.

These benefits are in addition to many others! Breast milk builds your baby’s immune system, improves his brain function and raises IQ, reduces mom’s risk of cancers and other health conditions, helps her loose her pregnancy weight faster, and provides emotional comfort and bonding for both mothers and babies… among others!

Read more on the benefits of breastfeeding at nancymohrbacher.com.

6 Pregnancy Super Foods

Before you reach for the cookie jar, think of your growing baby and take a peek at these nutritious and delicious food ideas!

Pregnancy is an important time to think more carefully about what you’re eating, since these foods will be the main source of nutrients for your growing baby. Get off to a good start with these pregnancy super foods.

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photo credit: Doesn’t this make you hungry?!

1. Whole grains: Enriched, whole-grain breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid and iron and contain more fiber than white bread and rice. Some good ways to incorporate whole grains: Oatmeal for breakfast, a sandwich on whole-grain bread at lunch, and whole-wheat pasta or brown rice for dinner. Add barley to soups for thickness and flavor. If you like to bake, use whole wheat, oat, rye, or spelt flour.

2. Beans: Legumes are a good source of protein, fiber, and key nutrients such as iron, folate, calcium, and zinc. There are lots to choose from: black beans, white beans, pinto beans, lentils, black-eyed peas, and kidney, garbanzo, or soy beans! Try them in chili and soups, salads, pasta and rice dishes.

3. Salmon: A great source of protein, B vitamins, and Omega-3 fatty acids, which promote brain development and vision in babies.  Try it grilled, broiled, or on a salad. Although salmon is relatively low in mercury compared to other fish, experts advise no more than 12 ounces of salmon per week.

4. Eggs: Eggs a good source of protein that provides amino acids you and your baby need, and contain more than a dozen vitamins and minerals, including choline and lutein. They’re versatile too: Hard or soft boiled, sunny side up, omelets filled with veges and cheese, on a sandwich…  Just be sure not to eat undercooked or raw eggs.

5. Berries: Berries are bursting with vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries… they are a delicious snacks and taste great in pancakes, on top of cereal, in your yogurt. If you can’t get them fresh, look in the freezer section.

6. Low-fat yogurt: One cup of plain, low-fat yogurt contains more calcium than milk, and is high in protein. Avoid flavored yogurts for their high sugar content. Improve the taste with fruit, nuts, granola, or my personal favorite: date honey!

Vitamin D Levels for Pregnant Women: Experts Recommend 8 Times Higher than FNB Levels

Thousands of studies over the last 10 years have shown that high doses of vitamin D are crucial to maintaining health in many areas. The Vitamin D Council, a highly regarded non-profit organization states: “Higher doses of Vitamin D help in many areas of health, among them: heart health, brain health, pancreatic health, muscle health, nerve health, eye health, immune health, colon health, liver health, mood health, skin health, and especially fetal health.” (emphasis added)

For this reason, the Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) has created a tumult for stating that the high levels of vitamin D currently being recommended by many health professionals are unnecessary and may even be toxic (November 2010). The FNB only slightly increased its recommended daily intake of vitamin D from 200 IU to 600 IU. In contrast, Harvard newsletter (December 2010) recommends 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D per day, while the Vitamin D Council recommends up to 5,000 IU a day.

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image credit: Mother Earth News

The fact that there is no difference between the amounts of D a 15 pound baby and a 300 pound man should take is deemed “absurd” by experts. When it comes to pregnant women, the FNB also makes no differentiation.  But respected vitamin D experts recommend at least 4,000 IU a day, and 6,000 for nursing mothers.

In response to the conclusions of the FNB panel, the Vitamin D Council statement responds:

“Disturbingly, this FNB committee focused on bone health… and ignored the thousands of studies from the last ten years… Tens of millions of pregnant women and their breast-feeding infants are severely vitamin D deficient, resulting in a great increase in the medieval disease, rickets. The FNB report seems to reason that if so many pregnant women have low vitamin D blood levels then it must be OK because such low levels are so common…

“Pregnant women taking 400 IU/day have the same blood levels as pregnant women not taking vitamin D; that is, 400 IU is a meaninglessly small dose for pregnant women. Even taking 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D will only increase the vitamin D levels of most pregnant women by about 10 points, depending mainly on their weight. Professor Bruce Hollis has shown that 2,000 IU/day does not raise vitamin D to healthy or natural levels in either pregnant or lactating women. Therefore supplementing with higher amounts — like 5000 IU/day — is crucial for those women who want their fetus to enjoy optimal vitamin D levels, and the future health benefits that go along with it.

“My advice, especially for pregnant women: continue taking 5,000 IU/day until your 25(OH)D is between 50–80 ng/mL (the vitamin D blood levels obtained by humans who live and work in the sun and the mid-point of the current reference ranges at all American laboratories).

“Gestational vitamin D deficiency is not only associated with rickets, but a significantly increased risk of neonatal pneumonia, a doubled risk for preeclampsia, a tripled risk for gestational diabetes, and a quadrupled risk for primary cesarean section.

“Today, the FNB has failed millions of pregnant women whose as yet unborn babies will pay the price. Let us hope the FNB will comply with the spirit of “transparency” by quickly responding to our Freedom of Information requests.”

How To Get Enough Vitamin D

There are 3 ways for adults to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D: (Vitamin D Council recommendations)

  • regularly receive midday sun exposure in the late spring, summer, and early fall, exposing as much of the skin as possible for 20–30 minutes (being careful to never burn). (Those with dark skin will need longer exposure time — up to six times longer.)
  • regularly use a sun bed (avoiding sunburn) during the colder months.
  • take 5,000 IU per day for 2–3 months, then obtain a 25-hydroxyvitamin D test. Adjust your dosage so that blood levels are between 50–80 ng/mL (or 125–200 nM/L) year-round.

The Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding

Nursing your baby provides many opportunities for bonding, and the benefits for mom and baby extend into the toddler years. But how can you silence the critics who exclaim, “You’re still nursing?”

Q. I’m still nursing my two-year-old daughter. We both love the bond created by breastfeeding, and neither of us is ready to give it up. However, most of my friends and family strongly think it’s time to wean her. How can I cope with the disapproval?

Dr. William Sears answers this question on Parenting.com. In spite of today’s health-conscious, natural-is-better attitude, people still find it odd to breastfeed a baby beyond the “infant” stage.  But Dr. Sears is on this mom’s side, saying, “If it’s working for you and your child, and your mothering instinct tells you it’s right  — it’s right! In my opinion, you’re a health-savvy, modern mom, and it seems that your friends and relatives are old-fashioned and misinformed. As a pediatrician and parent, it grieves me to hear well-meaning critics ask a breastfeeding mother, “You’re still nursing?”

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photo: Breastfeeding Moms Unite

Extended breastfeeding is indeed a wise, long-term investment in your child’s future. Here are a few things to remember when discussing this issue:

Science backs Breastfeeding. Many medical journals carry articles proving the long-term health benefits of breastfeeding. The incidence of many illnesses, both childhood and adult, are lowered by breastfeeding, including diabetes, heart disease, and central nervous system degenerative disorders (such as multiple sclerosis). The most fascinating studies show that the longer and more frequently a mom nurses her baby, the smarter her child is likely to become. The brain grows more during the first two years of life than any other time, nearly tripling in size from birth to two years of age. During this crucial time of brain development, the “smart fats” unique to mom’s breast milk (namely, omega-3 fatty acid, also known as DHA) seem to provide an intellectual advantage for breastfed babies.

Babies who breastfeed for extended periods of time are healthier overall.  These other health benefits include:

  • Leaner bodies with less risk of obesity.
  • Improved vision, since the eye is similar to the brain in regards to nervous tissue.
  • Better hearing due to a lower incidence of ear infections.
  • Their dental health is generally good, since the natural sucking action of the breastfed infant helps incoming teeth align properly.
  • Intestinal health is also much better than those of non-breastfed babies, as breast milk is easier to digest, reducing spit-up, reflux, and constipation.
  • A toddler’s immune system functions much better since breastmilk contains an immunoglobulin (IGA) which coats the lining of the intestines, which helps prevent germs from penetrating through.
  • Even the skin of these babies is smoother and more supple.

World opinion is on your side. The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recommends mothers breastfeed until three years of age. (Yes, you did read that right!) Even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers should breastfeed “at least until one year of age and then as long as baby and mother mutually want to.”

It’s better for Mom’s health. Extended breastfeeding reduces the risk of uterine, ovarian, and breast cancers. Breastfeeding women also have a lower incidence of osteoporosis later in life.

It’s better for your toddler’s behavior. Dr. Sears has observed many extended breastfeeders in his pediatric practice, and knows that breastfed toddlers are easier to discipline. Breastfeeding is an exercise in baby reading, which enables a mother to more easily read her baby’s cues and intervene before a discipline situation gets out of hand. Nursing is also a wonderful calming tool for both Mom and baby.

Blame it on your doctor. One of the easiest ways to silence critics is the phrase: “My doctor advised me to.” You can go on to explain that your doctor (yes, Dr. Sears counts!) told you about all the recent research extolling the benefits of extended breastfeeding.

Let your child silence the critics. Once your friends and relatives see the benefits of your breastfeeding bond, your growth as a mother, and the emotional, intellectual and physical health of your child, they will serve as convincing testimonies to the value of extended breastfeeding.

Read more at Parenting.com and Ask Dr. Sears

Checklist: Getting Ready to Get Pregnant

If you want to get pregnant, there are a number of things you must do before you start trying. Item number one: Go skydiving. Because there’s no way they’ll let you jump out of that plane once you’ve got a baby on board!  Do you think I’m kidding? Well, skydiving is not my thing, personally, but really any high-action activity you want to do or trip you’ve been meaning to take should be considered before you become pregnant. Whether it’s scuba diving, mountain climbing, or riding all the roller coasters at Six Flags, do it now!

But aside from that, here are some important things you’ve got to tackle in order to be mentally, physically, and emotionally ready to get pregnant.

image: Saida Online Magazine

Consider genetic testing: Some genetic diseases affect certain ethnic groups, such as Tay-Sachs in the Ashkenazi Jewish community, and sickle cell disease, among African-Americans.  If a disease runs in your family, you may want to get tested to, for your own peace of mind.

Face up to the Scale: Aim for a healthy weight, as being underweight can affect ovulation, and being overweight contributes to problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Take a look at your diet: The healthier your body, the better chances you give your baby to start life healthy, too. Cut back on white flour, sugar, and processed food. Add more lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, veges, and whole grains.  Yummy home-made soups and smoothies are great ways to sneak in good nutrition!

Exercise: If you already have an exercise routine, don’t slack off during pregnancy! And if not, well it’s never too late to start, but talk to your doctor about easing into it.  Some benefits of a good workout (or even a nice walk around the neighborhood) include preparing your body for childbirth, higher energy levels, better sleep, stress reduction, and reduction of pregnancy-related discomfort. Plus, if you stay fit during pregnancy, you will regain your figure quicker after the birth.

Take Folic Acid: This all-important B vitamin helps lower the risk of birth defects like spina bifida. These defects form very early in baby’s development, before many women even realize they’re pregnant, so ask your doctor about taking a supplement as soon as you think about wanting to get pregnant.

Talk to your doctor about your medications: Some are best to stop taking during pregnancy, while some are OK– or necessary– to continue with.  You should not make this judgement on your own!

Visit the dentist: Good oral hygiene is one of those things we encourage during pregnancy.  Getting a bacterial infection can lead to premature birth and preeclampsia. Plus, better not to get x-rayed while you’re pregnant.

Cut back on Caffeine: A little bit is OK but too much is no good for a growing baby. The caffeine also affects fertility, so cutting back may increase your chances of conceiving.

Cork up that bottle, and throw the cigarettes in the trash where they belong. A healthy baby needs a healthy environment to grow in!  He should follow your lead and not just for moral support:  Excessive drinking and smoking can lower sperm count, too.

Paint the nursery: And the dining room, pantry, and bedroom too, if you want! But don’t do it while you’re pregnant or have a newborn in the house.  Toxins such as pesticides, oven cleaners, paint, and paint stripper contain chemicals that have been linked to birth defects.

Hand over the kitty litter sifter: Sure, it might just be a good excuse to get out of an unpleasant job. But it is true that litter boxes contain parasites that can make you sick (it’s called toxoplasmosis). So let hubby do the job, or wear gloves and wash up carefully when you’re done.

Work that budget: Finances shouldn’t have to stand in the way of having a family!  Sit down with a financial planner if you  need to, and figure out how you can put some money away for prenatal care and raising your baby.  Also find out about your company’s maternity leave policies,  your health insurance’s prenatal care and childbirth policies, and look into life and disability insurance.

Be emotionally prepared: Women who have given a great deal of thought to what pregnancy and parenting entail are better adjusted later on, compared with those who did not consider the demands their new role will place upon their lives. As a couple you need to think about how a pregnancy and new baby will  impact your family, work, and psyche.

Don’t Eat These Foods if you’re Pregnant!

Everything you eat and drink while you’re expecting influences your baby’s health.  Good choices are whole grains, lean meats, lots of fresh fruits and veges, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. As for the rest… well some foods are questionable, some are OK in moderation, and some are all-out no-no’s.

Here’s some “food for thought:” consider these guidelines before indulging in every pregnancy craving:

Raw or Undercooked Animal Products

These foods may contain an array of bacteria, viruses, and parasites.  When cooking meat, chicken, and fish, it’s recommended to test the doneness with a food thermometer, cook eggs until they are no longer runny, and don’t eat raw dough. Here are some other things to watch out for:

  • rare meat
  • raw oysters
  • clams
  • sushi
  • unpasteurized eggs
  • raw cookie or cake dough
  • homemade eggnog

Hot Dogs, Cold Cuts, & Unpasteurized Dairy Foods

These foods are prone to Listeria monocytogenes, a bacteria that causes listeriosis, which may result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or other serious health problems. These include food such as:

  • hot dogs and
  • luncheon meats (deli ham or turkey, bologna, salami, etc)
  • refrigerated pates or meat spreads
  • refrigerated smoked seafood (such as salmon, trout, whitefish, cod, tuna, or mackerel)– may be labeled “nova-style,” “lox,” “kippered,” “smoked,” or “jerky.”
  • raw milk and unpasteurized dairy products such as Brie, feta, Camembert, Roquefort, blue-veined, queso blanco, queso fresco, and queso Panela.

It’s safe to eat smoked seafood, lunch meants, and franks, when it’s part of a cooked dish (like in a casserole) or if you reheat them until they are steaming hot. Always wash your hands, utensils, and cooking surfaces after handling raw meats, deli meats, etc.

Certain Seafood and Fish

Some large fish harbor high concentrations of mercury, a byproduct of coal-burning plants that interferes with the normal development of a child’s brain and nervous system.

  • Fish to avoid: swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel
  • Fish to eat in moderation (up to 12 ounces weekly, according to the FDA):  salmon (farmed and wild), shrimp, canned light tuna, pollock, sardines, tilapia, and catfish.
  • albacore (white) tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna. Limit to 6 ounces a week.
  • Fish caught for sport in rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams may also contain industrial pollutants that play havoc with a developing nervous system. Check the safety with your local health departments.

Raw Vegetable Sprouts

The FDA advises pregnant women not to eat raw sprouts — including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts.   Bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella can get into sprout seeds, posing a danger for a weaker immune system. Cooked sprouts are perfectly fine.

Drinks to Limit or Avoid

  • Alcohol (beer, wine, or spirits) robs developing cells of oxygen and nutrients, preventing normal fetal development. The effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome on intellectual abilities and physical growth are permanent. While some assume the motto “Everything in moderation,” there is no known “safe level” of alcohol consumption during pregnancy.
  • Unpasteurized juices, such as cider from neighborhood farms. These products may contain germs including E. coli.
  • Lead in tap water is linked to low birth weight, preterm delivery, and developmental delays in children. If you have an older home with lead pipes, it can leach into your tap water, and home filtration systems may not prevent it from reaching you.
  • Caffeine from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy beverages, and other sources may increase the risk of miscarriage, reduced birth weight, and stillbirth, but the research is conflicting. The March of Dimes recommends limiting caffeine consumption to 200 milligrams a day. That’s about the amount found in 12 ounces of coffee.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA is an industrial chemical used to make many hard plastics and the liners of many canned foods. It’s an endocrine disruptor that could disturb normal fetal development.

The FDA has not yet recommended that pregnant women avoid BPA, but they did express concern about “the potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland of fetuses, infants, and children.”

If you wish to be safe, a wide range of BPA-free plastics and glass containers are available.

Herbal Teas, Vitamins, & Supplements

There are herbs and other supplements that can be used safely to support a healthy pregnancy, but always talk to your doctor or midwife about any supplement use during pregnancy.  Herbal teas are caffeine-free, but there are definite studies on the safety of herbal preparations during pregnancy.

Duffy MacKay, ND, is the vice president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, suggests the following guidelines during pregnancy:

  • Herbs that contain stimulants or caffeine-containing supplements, especially those that are intended to promote weight loss: guarana, kola nut, betel (Piper betle), Citrum aurantium, yohimbe, theobromine (cocoa extract), Garcinai cambogia.
  • Other botanicals to avoid include golden seal, Cascara sagrada, black walnut, wormwood, tansy, pennyroyal, senna, saw palmetto, pao d’arco.
  • Do not exceed 10,000 or more IU per day of vitamin A because of the risk of birth defects.  MacKay adds that “many newer and specialty nutrients have not been proven safe for use during pregnancy and should be avoided.”

Foods That May Cause Food Allergy

Your baby is more lifely to develop food allergies if you, your child’s father, or one of your other children has allergies.  The American Academy of Pediatrics  says that avoiding certain food allergens (such as peanuts) during pregnancy and nursing may reduce allergy in susceptible children.

If you don’t have any family history of allergies, there is little, if any, benefit to avoiding allergens during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Before changing your diet, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who is knowledgeable about food allergies.

Excess Calories

Eating for two does not mean that you need twice the calories! Gaining too much weight is not just bad for your health, it may actually increase the risk of your future child being overweight.

It is important to chose healthy foods that will provide good nutrition for you and your developing baby. If you are overweight at conception or if your physical activity level declines, you may not need as many extra calories.

  • First trimester: no need to add extra calories yet.
  • Second trimester: add 340 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.
  • Third trimester: add 450 calories a day to your pre-pregnancy calorie needs.

It’s usually not that important to count calories, as long as you are eating a balanced diet and feel energized. If you are unsure about how many calories to consume, ask your doctor or dietitian.

Source: Web MD

feature image: mom logic

A Glass of Wine for Better Behaved Kids?

A study published last month from BJOG (an International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) reported a link between women who drank moderately in the early months of pregnancy, and the behavior of their children years later. And what do you think they found? Well, they discovered that women who had 2-6 drinks per week early in their pregnancy tended to have children with more positive behavior than women who didn’t drink at all.

How’d they come up with that? And does it mean anything?

They enlisted 2900 women to provide data at 18 and 34 weeks of gestation on weekly alcohol intake: no drinking, occasional drinking (up to one standard drink per week), light drinking (2–6 standard drinks per week), moderate drinking (7–10 standard drinks per week), and heavy drinking (11 or more standard drinks per week).

Then, their children were followed up at ages 2, 5, 8, 10 and 14 years, using a standard checklist to measure behavior.

“This positive behavior meant that the children of light and moderate drinkers had less emotional and behavioral problems through childhood and adolescence,” Dr. Monique Robinson, from Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in West Perth, Western Australia, told Reuters Health.

If this report has you jumping out of your chair to pour yourself a glass of wine, you might want to stop and think about it for a moment. Good behavior is great, but the study addresses nothing relating to cognitive abilities or general health. It also seems to me that measuring something like “positive behavior” is incredibly subjective.

As one eloquent commenter at iVillage said:  “Maybe they are less emotional because the brain cells are dead.”

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a pattern of mental and physical defects which develops in some unborn babies when the mother drinks excessive alcohol during pregnancy.  Fetal alcohol exposure is the leading known cause of mental retardation in the Western world.  The current recommendation of both the US Surgeon General and the UK Department of Health is not to drink alcohol at all during pregnancy.  (Wikipedia)

Remember, while an occasional glass of wine may or may not have an affect on your unborn child, no amount of alcohol is proven safe for consumption during pregnancy. Sacrificing your baby’s mental and physical health for good behavior seems very silly indeed.

Breastfeeding, Dieting, and Weight Loss

Congratulations, you have a new baby! Amidst all the excitement and exhaustion, we know there’s one thought niggling at the back of your mind… when will I get out of these maternity clothes and back into clothes my “real” size?! Ah, have patience… Remember that your pregnancy weight wasn’t gained overnight. And for many moms, it won’t disappear that quickly, either.

The extra weight is there for a reason!

La Leche League points out that one reason you gained extra weight during pregnancy is so you would have plenty of reserves for feeding your baby. This is particularly reassuring for nursing mothers because it means that breastfeeding help in shedding these extra pounds, as the “reserve” are converted into nutritious breast milk for you baby.

Breastfeeding helps with weight loss

You may be surprised at how much weight you can loose in the early months by simply following a normal diet and eating when you’re hungry. The LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK says, “Breastfeeding mothers tend to lose more weight when their babies are three to six months old than formula-feeding mothers who consume fewer calories… Another study of mothers at one month postpartum found that mothers who breastfed (either exclusively or partially) had slimmer hips and weighed less than women whose babies received only formula…” (Yet another good reason to nurse your baby!)

Breastfeeding mothers can loose about one pound per week, while still consuming 1500 to 1800 calories per day.  The BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board says that most nursing moms actually need more like 2,000 to 2,700 calories per day! It’s very important to eat well in order to feel good, prevent mood swings, and have energy to care for your baby (especially if you are compensating for lack of sleep!).

It’s interesting to note that the composition of your milk really does not vary much with your diet. LLLI points out that mothers in famine conditions can produce perfectly nutritious milk for their babies. The main reason it’s important to eat well during lactation is for yourself– your health may suffer if too many of your own reserves are used to provide milk. Be sure to take care of yourself by “eating to hunger” and “drinking to thirst.”

Exercise and Dieting

If you feel like to need to actively work to lose weight, it is best to wait at least 2 months for your body to recover from childbirth and establish a good milk supply. Starting a diet too soon after giving birth can delay your recovery, affect your milk supply, and make you feel more tired (and no one with a newborn needs to feel MORE tired!). Always check with your doctor about increasing your activity level or reducing your calorie intake.

Exercise, not just calorie-counting, is important if you want to loose weight.  Try to be more active, whether it means hitting the gym or just walking your baby in the stroller instead of driving everywhere.

Don’t skip meals in an attempt to lose weight. It won’t help because you’ll be more likely to eat more at other meals. All you’ll accomplish is probably making yourself feel tired and grouchy. Breakfast really is important in helping you stay active and energized throughout the day. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of successful dieters eat breakfast daily.

Go Slow

BabyCenter explains another danger of strict, restrictive diets. Too-rapid weight loss can release toxins that are stored in your body fat into your bloodstream and milk supply. These toxins include environmental contaminants like the heavy metals lead and mercury, persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and dioxins, and solvents.

Be realistic about weight loss

You should know that not everyone is able to return to their exact pre-pregnancy weight or shape. Pregnancy often causes permanent changes such as a softer belly, a larger waistline, and wider hips. With this in mind, you might want to adjust your goals a bit. (For a reality check, see Baby Center’s photo gallery of real post-baby bellies.)

Make good food choices

Some good food choices include:

  • low-fat milk and dairy products
  • whole grain products like whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal
  • high-fiber, low fat fruits (like apples, oranges, and berries)
  • raw vegetables (like carrots, jicama, and red pepper strips)
  • broiled or baked foods rather than fried foods
  • limit sweets and processed snack foods
  • choose “good” fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) like olive oil, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.
  • cut calories by drinking water instead of juice, soda, and coffee

Some suggestions for squeezing more fruits and veggies into your diet:

  • Make fruit (or veggie) smoothies
  • use fruit or vegetable salsas or sauces made from puréed vegetables over fish or chicken
  • add shredded carrots to your sandwich
  • try grilled vegetables,
  • try puréed vegetable soups. Puréeing gives you a creamy soup without having to add cream.

feature image from www.indidenim.com

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