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Posts from the ‘Parenting’ Category

The science behind the AAP’s safe sleep recommendations

You've probably heard about the AAP's updated safe sleep policy by now, but you might have wondered about the evidence behind it. Here's some science to answer your questions.

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What’s Up With the Virgin Gut? Do Babies Really Have an “Open Gut” Until 6 Months of Age?

There is a persistent myth about infant gut development that comes up in nearly every online discussion of starting solid foods. It’s the myth that infants have a “virgin” or “open” gut until around 6 months of age. I’ve received so many emails, Facebook posts, and comments about the virgin gut over the last few years that I thought it was finally time to take a look at the science – and lack thereof – behind this myth.

I have written before, in my book and on my blog, about the controversy around when to begin introducing solid foods to a baby. Some health organizations recommend 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, while others recommend starting to offer solids between 4 and 6 months, following baby’s cues of readiness as your ultimate guide. Based on my analysis of the most current science, I believe that the second approach is more evidence-based and helps parents to focus on their baby’s unique development rather than the calendar. I also think that it’s just fine to wait until 6 months if that is your preference.

However, whenever I discuss this science, someone lectures me about infant gut development, and they usually send me a link to KellyMom’s page on the topic, which urges parents not to offer solids before 6 months. Here’s what it says:

“In addition, from birth until somewhere between four and six months of age babies possess what is often referred to as an “open gut.” This means that the spaces between the cells of the small intestines will readily allow intact macromolecules, including whole proteins and pathogens, to pass directly into the bloodstream. This is great for your breastfed baby as it allows beneficial antibodies in breastmilk to pass more directly into baby’s bloodstream, but it also means that large proteins from other foods (which may predispose baby to allergies) and disease-causing pathogens can pass right through, too.”

Wow, that does sound scary! I can see how this “open gut” idea would worry parents approaching the transition to solid foods. But here’s the thing: There are no references given to support these statements, and in all my reading of the research literature on readiness for solids, I have not encountered science backing this concern. Yet somehow this idea of the open gut comes up over and over in online discussions, complete with judgment for parents who offer solids before 6 months and non-evidence-based suggestions about how to “heal” a baby’s gut. All of this only serves to increase anxiety in parents, which is the last thing any of us need.

It’s time to get to the bottom of this. Let’s look at some science…

What do we mean when we talk about an “open” or “closed” gut? How do we measure this? Read more

My Sleep Mantra and BabyM’s Sleep Story

BabyM is almost 14 months old already. It’s crazy how quickly the first year of his life flew by, and I know the subsequent years will be no different.

The upside of that passage of time is that we’re all sleeping pretty well now, and that is a wonderful thing. To be honest, though, I actually enjoyed watching my baby’s sleep develop this time around. I know that time softens my memories, but I already miss those quiet middle-of-the-night feedings with my baby.

Long-time readers of this blog know that I wrote a lot about sleep when Cee was a baby, in the early days of the blog. I also wrote about evidence-based sleep strategies for my book. I’ve read hundreds of papers on sleep since Cee was a baby, and that changed so much about my approach to M’s sleep. Lots of readers have asked me about how M’s sleep went, so I finally wanted to share his sleep story. Read more

4 Parenting New Year’s Resolutions, and Books for Inspiration

This time last year, I had a week-old baby, and my New Year’s resolutions were simple: Be present with my family, find gratitude in each day, and take care of myself. These goals were simple but not always easy. Still, it helped me to come back to these intentions for the year when I started to feel overwhelmed. I’m reaffirming those resolutions for the coming year, but I’m also feeling more ambitious and inspired about bringing more creativity, fun, and learning into each day with my kids.

I love books for inspiration, especially for projects with Cee. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I get too easily side-tracked or overwhelmed on Pinterest. I like to find great books and work my way through them. So for each of my resolutions, I’ve found a book or two as a jumping-off point for the year. (All of the Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, so I receive a tiny commission if you buy through a link, at no extra cost to you. More here. I received no compensation for this post, and unless otherwise noted, I purchased these books myself.)

1. Do more art together.

I think everyone needs to make space in their life for creating something, and kids naturally want and need to explore different ways of doing that every day, whether it’s through building a fort, making music, cooking, or painting. This year, I want to do more creative art with Cee. We often need a quiet activity in the afternoon while BabyM naps, and this feels like a special way to spend time together.

Inspiring this resolution is the beautiful book, The Artful Parent, by Jean Van’t Hul. This book immediately drew me in and kept me up late for a couple of nights of reading and scribbling notes about how to set up a great space for doing art, supplies that I want to add to our collection, and projects I’d like to try. But before I even got my hands on this book, Cee intercepted it and thumbed through it carefully, leaving sticky notes on every page that showed something she wanted to try.

The ARtful parent

Our copy of The Artful Parent, with Cee’s color-coded sticky notes marking projects of interest. (Light pink indicates two inspiring projects, dark pink one.)

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See My Interview – and Lots More – in a Free Parenting Summit

Hi everyone! I’ve been quiet these last few weeks as we’ve celebrated Cee’s 5th birthday (I know! I can’t believe it! Amazing girl…), had house guests, and already celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday. My husband is working on Thursday, so we made some adjustments this year so we could all be together. We’re already on to turkey soup in our house!

A quick post today to get the word be the best parent you can beout about a free online parenting summit, featuring video interviews with 21 parenting writers and educators – including me! I recorded my interview with Jeanne-Marie Paynel of Voila Montessori this morning, and I enjoyed chatting with her about the challenge of sorting through overwhelming parenting information, as well as what science tells us about how newborn babies sense the world and how we can best care for them. Other speakers in the summit will discuss child behavior, development, mindful parenting, nutrition, and sleep. The summit includes a closed Facebook group for discussion about the interviews. It starts on December 1, and my interview is scheduled to be the first released. If you sign up, you’ll have access to a new interview each day of the summit. You can join the Be the Best Parent You Can Be summit HERE. I hope to see you there!

More science, coming soon!

After Another School Shooting, Doing My Best to Parent in a Scary World

Since last week’s shooting at Umpqua Community College, I’ve been thinking a lot about the problem of gun violence in our country. This isn’t a typical topic for me, but of all the things that we worry about as parents, this should probably be among the top of our list. Read more

Hear My Interview on NPR! And a few thoughts on it…

I was thrilled to be interviewed by Rachel Martin for NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. The interview aired yesterday, but you can listen to it and read the transcript here:

‘Science of Mom’: Scientist Sorts Through Studies So Parents Don’t Have To

I’m not going to even try to pretend that this was not a HUGE deal to me. I grew up listening to NPR every single day. We lived in a very small house, where the bedrooms were all basically right off of the kitchen, and the sounds of Morning Edition woke me up just about every morning. We listened to NPR in the car on the way to and from school and then back at home while we made dinner. The familiar voices of NPR hosts and the opening jingle were a part of my childhood. And while some kids might dream of being a professional athlete or famous actor, I dreamed of being on NPR. I figured that a good life goal was to do something interesting or useful enough to justify an NPR interview. I never dreamed that it might come out of a parenting blog, but life is full of unexpected surprises. Read more

The Science of Mom: An Introduction

Get a sneak peek at my book, The Science of Mom! You can read the entire Introduction here!

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The Things She Carried… and Barely Used

I’ve been unpacking after a week-long trip to my mom’s house. Among the items I’m pulling out of my backpack: 2 nonfiction books that I’ve been wanting to read, 2 copies of The New Yorker, 1 new legal pad for writing, plus clothes for running and yoga.

I barely cracked open the books and magazines. The legal pad is as clean as ever. The workout clothes are still neatly folded and fresh smelling. I’m exhausted, and I’m laughing at myself. After almost 5 years of motherhood, why do I still hold on to the hope that I’ll be able to catch up on reading, writing, and exercise when I’m traveling with my kids? Read more