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Music to Our Bellies

As a long-time music lover, I always enjoyed hearing stories about pregnant women who played music to their bellies only to have that child later become a musical prodigy. One friend told me a story about a husband who played his guitar right up against his wife's pregnant belly and their son became a guitar whiz. Unfortunately, I only appreciate music, and besides my wishlist accomplishment of learning to play the cello for a brief stint, and my husband's attempt to learn the bass guitar, we can only play our eclectic mix of CD's like the best of them.

Of course I want to believe that music-lovers and musicians will raise the same. And it makes sense, doesn't it, that if we expose our little ones to music of all types when they are dancing and tumbling around in the womb, they will come out as natural born appreciators of music. But I was interested to see if there were studies on this topic, and "hear" is what I found out….

It is a common belief that if you play calming music or lullabies to your baby in utero–for instance, placing your iPod headphones on the belly–your little peanut will react by kicking and moving, or becoming suddenly still, especially in the third trimester. Some even believe that music played while in the womb will be remembered by the baby up to a year after birth.

According to an article on SmartMommy.com , it is believed that in the 7th month of pregnancy, the soothing sounds of music in the womb can stimulate your baby's ear, brain and body development in preparation for sound and language comprehension. Thomas Verny, M.D., author of The Secret Life of the Unborn Child (Dell, 1994) said, "Musicologists seem to agree that rhythms, similar to the mother's heartbeat, have the most calming effect" on babies in utero. This can also be used as a tool to calm a fussy newborn.

One woman reported to BBC News Health : "I used to have a daily bath and listen to Ella Fitzgerald at 6pm. It was my peace time. When she was born she was very fractious with colic. We used to play Ella Fitzgerald at 3am to try to settle her, and it really worked."

But there are differing opinions on what is called the "Mozart Effect," which says that playing classical music to babies in utero increases brain activity and stimulation, which thereby is an intelligence and IQ booster. An online BBC article –Does Classical Music Make Babies Smarter? — states that "Numerous studies conclude that playing music to babies in the womb and in the early years helps build the neural bridges along which thoughts and information travel. And research suggests it can stimulate the brain's alpha waves, creating a feeling of calm."

It's a fact that a fetus develops their ability to hear 5 months into pregnancy, and can therefore react to sounds outside the womb, but there is no hard evidence that proves that playing classical music is a direct link to higher intellectual development.

In the same BBC article, Professor Paul Robertson, a leading expert in musicology, believes it's important the best music is made available to babies at the earliest possible stage of their growth.

My thoughts are, whether my baby becomes the next little genius or not, it can't hurt to encourage her development with this great source of entertainment (that is far better than TV). If nothing else, it will be a way to bond with your baby before she arrives, and it will definitely be a way to share a fun and necessary form of the Arts for many years to come. So crank up that CD, go to Baby & Me music classes, and enjoy your happy time together!

 

Mother of the Year Award

How do I find a moms group?While sometimes I think just making it to the end of the day without too many Dora songs, tears, food related tantrums, hubbie frowns, missed call or neglected emails deserves a medal… there are a lot of true supermoms out there who deserve an real award. I was so excited to discover my city honors a new woman each year who “goes beyond the daily responsibilities of parenting and/or grand parenting by becoming extremely active in the lives of citizens in the community”, in fact, this is their 55th year! How cool is that!?

Follow this link for more info on Oakland’s award, or comment here to tell us about your city’s or organization’s mom award.

How important is good hydration?

pregnanthydration.jpgSo important in fact, that our recent article on keeping hydrated with Glow Mama was posted on the American Pregnancy Association website. Here’s what our resident pre and post natal nutrition expert Julie says…

Good hydration is extremely important for a healthy pregnancy and postpartum period. Water flushes waste products from the cells and aids in liver and kidney function for both mom and the baby. During pregnancy, water is also needed for the body’s expansion as mom’s blood volume increases significantly. Insufficient water intake can be a factor in constipation, preterm labor, and miscarriage, and even slight dehydration can cause or contribute to fatigue. Proper hydration is also important for adequate breast milk production and flow.

Most women know about the need for proper hydration during pregnancy, but many do not get adequate fluid intake. Some women do not like drinking water; others say they are not generally thirsty. Additionally, women are often unaware that some beverages are actually dehydrating.

Read the whole article

The Dish on Fish

wildsalmon.jpgIn all of my pregnancies, the taste, the smell, even just the thought
of cooked fish could send me right into gagfests.   No worries, I
thought, I don’t want to expose my baby to all that mercury anyway.   
And, not to mention, our oceans and fish supplies are suffering due to bad fishing practices, so no need to contribute to that environmental quagmire.

But then the news came out that pregnant mamas who eat fish have smarter more coordinated babies (a Harvard study in June 2005 and a British study in Feb 2007), and I had reason to revisit the fish issue.  Or at least find a way to get those potent omega -3 fatty acids in me and my in utero baby and my young children’s developing brains!

What about just taking fish oil supplements and not have to think about it?  Unfortunately, there is no way (yet) of knowing that there is no mercury in them and/or that they are coming from eco-friendly sources.  Give it a few years and some regulation getting involved and that will probably be a great option.

So back to the fish.  From my research I knew that mercury is truly bad news and has seriously detrimental effects on young nervous systems in particular.  Not worth rolling that dice.  I also had tacked up in my kitchen the Environmental Defense Fund’s “eco-worst” list of fish to avoid if you care about our planet.  So where was I to find fish that was safe to eat, that I could swallow without puking and that I could eat without feeling guilty?

My list had dwindled down to: wild salmon, pacific halibut, and yellowfin tuna, caught in US waters.

Fast forward to a recent date night with my husband when we visited our favorite sushi bar.  As we settled in, the sushi chef asked, “How’s the sushi baby?”  Two years later, he still remembers me for eating sushi right through the ninth month of my last pregnancy.   And I’m not talking just California rolls, girls, I mean the real deal sashimi.  Sushi?!?!? I hear you scream, but it’s RAW!!!  Yes.  And a food borne illness in pregnancy should be avoided at all costs.  With names like Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, better to leave them on an exotic baby name list, as my girlfriend suggested,  than have them wreaking havoc on your GI system.  So why would I risk it?  Well, they do it in Japan and the reason is that if you are eating the freshest of the best, as I was, you can eliminate your risk.  I trusted my sushi source; he would rather die than have someone be sick from his sushi.  And in over 20 years of eating there, no one I know ever has been.

And so with that assurance, I gorged on high grade sushi, which never has a fishy smell so I never once gagged.  The result?  My little “sushi baby” - is one smart whippersnapper, if I do say so myself, who happens to love eating raw fish too.

Milk Money

Where does your milk dollar go?  Do you buck up for organic?  Go
rBGH-free?  Regular?  Raw?  Non/Low/Full-Fat?  Heck, there’s even a
brand that supports my kid’s school.  WAY too many choices - for what
should be one of the (few) simple buying decisions at the grocery.

I personally buy organic some of the time (when it’s on sale or I have a coupon) but almost always hormone-free.  Thing is, depending on what store I go to (and I frequent many) there are different brands available that make my choices more complicated.

ORGANIC

I’m often tempted by store brand organic milk because it’s less expensive.  But have you heard about the Horizon/Aurora Organic boycott?   The Organic Consumer’s Association is leading the charge to boycott this company (owned by Dean Foods) because they have been pushing the limits on organic standards by using factory farm feedlots where the animals have little or no access to pasture.

So, if you care about maintaining organic standards, then consider passing on not only the Horizon Organic brand but the private label brands that use the same supplier.  As far as I know, these brands include:  Costco’s "Kirkland Signature," Target’s "Archer Farm", Walmart’s "Great Value", Safeway’s "O" organics brand, Publix’s "High Meadows,"Giant’s "Natures Promise," and Wild Oats’ organic milk.

Milk3.jpgTrader Joe’s and Whole Foods "365′ brand of organic milk appear to be OK.  Let’s hope so anyway! (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about any of this)

If you want to get into some heavy details, check out the Cornucopia Institute’s research project on Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Milk.  If not, just enjoy their great graphic illustration of the situation!

 

rBGH-FREE

I want to keep this as simple as possible…. rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is given to cows to increase their milk production.  It is bad for:

  • COWS - because it can lead to chronic mastitis (if you’ve ever breast fed, you know what that means and why you don’t EVER want to have it!). And because of the risk of infection, herds are treated with lots of antibiotics.
  • PEOPLE - because the resulting milk has high levels of Insulin-like Growth Hormone (IGF-1). Research has shown that elevated levels of IGF-1 is linked to an increased risk of breast, colorectal and prostrate cancer.

Use of rBGH is banned in Canada and the European Union.  It’s allowed here in the U.S. but the movement to stop using it is getting bigger by the day.  All Trader Joe’s milk (organic and non) is rBGH-free.  Starbucks offers rBGH-free milk in all their U.S. stores and is working toward a complete switch.  Kroger is officially rBGH-free in the West and their switch will be nationwide by Feb. 2008.   

Fortunately, rBGH-free milk is easy to find and while you do pay a premium, it is not as spendy as organic.  A good compromise if you ask me.   

OTHER OPTIONS

Most people I know buy 1% or skim.  I buy 2% because it’s what I grew up with and what my family likes.  My son had a pediatrician who gave me a hard time about switching to skim.  I switched doctors instead.  I’m not an expert, but I’m not afraid of a little bit of fat.

Anyone out there a raw milk fan?  I’ve never tried it but I know there are people who think it is MUCH healthier than pasteurized milk.  You can learn more from the Campaign for Real Milk (a project of the Weston A. Price foundation).    

Supporting your School?  Here in Minnesota, I try to buy Kemps Select brand (rBGH-free) because saving the cap means money for Drew’s school.  Just one more thing to think about in the complicated process of feeding your family… 

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