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Happy Mother’s Day

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“Home, Sweet, Home.” Sometimes, it’s messy. Somtimes it’s clean.
If, for instance, you showed up on a typical afternoon, you might think we’d been robbed. There are piles of laundry; a tangle of strollers, coats and shoes in the hallway; a pillow and blanket “fort” in the living room; a traffic jam of trucks and cars, leading from room to room; and of course, a fine layer of crumbs on the kitchen floor.
On the other hand, if you stopped by around 8:00 at night, you’d find a different scene. You’d see bins stuffed with toys; pillows neatly arranged on the sofa; shoes in the shoe rack; strollers in a row; and a neat stacks of newspapers and magazines. The dishwasher and washing machine would be humming in harmony.
It’s an ongoing battle, this fight against the natural chaos of daily life. It’s kind of like trying to prevent the incoming tide from destroying a sandcastle. I know it’s futile. And yet, I persist. Every day, I crawl around the apartment, moving things from one place to the other, opening and shutting cabinets and doors. And every day, I repeat these motions, dreaming of the perfection you find in home decor magazines.
I have to admit that I have help in this department. Once a week, I pay someone to do the real dirty work, the scrubbing and mopping. And my husband pitches in as well. He’s great with recycling, taking out the trash, folding laundry and putting things on the top shelf of a closet where I can’t reach. But the daily grind of scraping the oatmeal off the floor is getting me down. (By the way, here’s a tip: If you try to wipe oatmeal off the floor as soon as it lands there, it makes a messy smudge. Let it dry in place for a few hours and then use a DustBuster to pick up the hardened chunks).
So I have one small wish for Mother’s Day…I’d like a free pass in the straightening up and organizing department. I’d like the dirty dishes to vanish. And you know all those rogue toys…the random LEGO, the sole block, the lonely puzzle piece…maybe they can somehow find their way back to their mates. I know, as a force of habit, I’ll probably start to pitch in, to make the clean-up go faster…but if anyone sees me doing this…send me to my bedroom to meditate.
And yes, things can return to normal the next day. That’s life with a two year old and a three year old. Really, I just need to accept it. Maybe my real mantra should be “Mess, Sweet, Mess.”
Original Post to New York Moms Blog.

New Study Says Breastfeeding Raises A Baby’s IQ

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For the latest bit of evidence in this department…there’s a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry. Here’s some information from The LA Times:
Increased breast-feeding during the first months of life appears to raise a child’s verbal IQ, according to a study of nearly 14,000 children that was released Monday.
The study in Archives of General Psychiatry found that 6-year-olds whose mothers were part of a program that encouraged them to breast-feed had verbal IQs that were an average of 7.5 points higher than those of children in a control group.
The researchers said that their findings suggested that the longer an infant is exclusively fed breast milk, the greater the IQ improvement.
The results echo smaller previous studies that found children and adults who were breast-fed tended to have higher IQs than whose who were not…
The latest study tracked breast-fed infants born between June 1996 and December 1997 in Belarus. Half of the infants and mothers were assigned to an experimental program designed to promote breast-feeding, while the remaining infants and mothers received regular pediatric and follow-up medical care.
The breast-feeding program included increased counseling and instruction when women visited doctors or clinics.
At the end of three months, 72% of infants in the experimental group were still breast-feeding to some degree, compared with 60% in the group that did not receive breast-feeding support.
The researchers believe that what drove the results was the substantially higher number of infants who were exclusively breast-fed in the experimental group: 43% compared with 6% of infants in the control group.
All children in the study were interviewed and examined between 2002 and 2005, when they were an average of 6 1/2 years old. The children’s academic performance also was evaluated by their teachers.
Besides the improvement in their verbal IQ scores, children in the experimental group scored an average of 4.9 points higher on tests that specifically measured vocabulary.
Compared with children in the control group, children in the experimental group had overall IQ scores 5.9 points higher than those of children in the control group and better academic assessments from their teachers, but the improvements were not deemed statistically significant.
Kramer said that more research was needed to determine whether the benefits were related to a component of breast milk or to the physical and social interaction between mother and child that is inherent in breast-feeding…

Breastfeeding Rates At An All Time High

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The Center For Disease Control reports that breastfeeding rates are at an all time high. The report says that in 2005-2006, 77% of new moms tried breastfeeding when their baby was born. That number is up from 60% in 2003-2004. The number of moms breastfeeding at 6 months remained relatively unchanged, however, hovering around 30%. Here is a link to the report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Here are some key findings:
* The percentage of infants who were ever breastfed increased from 60% among infants who were born in 1993-1994 to 77% among infants who were born in 2005-2006.
* Breastfeeding rates increased significantly among non-Hispanic black women from 36% in 1993-1994 to 65% in 2005-2006.
* Breastfeeding rates in 1999-2006 were significantly higher among those with higher income (74%) compared with those who had lower income (57%).
* Breastfeeding rates among mothers 30 years and older were significantly higher than those of younger mothers.
* There was no significant change in the rate of breastfeeding at 6 months of age for infants born between 1993 and 2004.

For a critical look at what these numbers mean, here is a story from
The Wall Street Journal. The piece says:
But looked at another way, the CDC numbers show that breastfeeding is flat — and the rate of long-term acceptance of the practice is declining among those who try it. The latest available rate of breastfeeding for six-month-old infants barely cleared 30%, well short of a federal-government goal of 50% by 2010, and barely budged from a decade earlier.
Taken collectively, the numbers mean that more new mothers are trying breastfeeding, but a smaller percentage of those who do try breastfeeding stick with it — and that can have serious health consequences. “It is exclusive breastfeeding for about six months that is most related to optimal health outcomes,” said Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey who has helped steer American Academy of Pediatrics efforts to increase breastfeeding rates. Jane Morton, who has also contributed to these efforts and is a clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, told me, “A lot of the benefits really do depend on the exclusivity and duration of breast-feeding.”
Margaret McDowell, a CDC health statistician and co-author of the latest report, told me that both indicators are important. Early breast milk, also called colostrum, contains antibodies and protein that help protect newborns, and that formula doesn’t provide. “Any amount [of breast-feeding] is really good for the infant,” said Ms. McDowell, a registered dietitian. As for the flat six-month rate, “We’d like to do better.”
Hospitals and the workplace can impede progress. Women who get off to a poor start are likely to stop breastfeeding, and their attempt can be hampered from the moment of birth, particularly in the case of C-sections, when the child often is taken to a nursery, Dr. Morton said. “The majority of hospitals give free samples of formula and formula company marketing materials,” Dr. Feldman-Winter said. On the job, keeping the milk supply up can be challenging. “Poor women have jobs with less support for continued breastfeeding and they are more likely to return to work sooner after delivery,” Dr. Feldman-Winter said.
The numbers themeselves are part of the challenge of increasing breastfeeding rates: The data are old, and include a lot of uncertainty. They come from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, in which thousands of Americans each year who agree to participate are interviewed in their homes and then undergo physical examinations in mobile centers. This is expensive work, hence the mere 434 infants included in the latest survey.
Because not all of the infants born in 2005-2006 had reached six months by the time the latest survey was conducted — Ms. McDowell couldn’t say how many had — there wasn’t enough data about breastfeeding at six months for the group. So the CDC’s latest data for the six-month indicator came from infants born in 2003-2004. The data are grouped in two-year periods to build a large enough sample, delaying findings.
Also, the breastfeeding rates are self-reported — meaning the numbers could reflect the increased desire of mothers to breastfeed, rather than increased practice. (The latest numbers agree with another CDC survey, also based on self-reporting.)