See the Breastfeeding Model on the Cover of Elle Australia!

breastfeeding modelThe #normalizebreastfeeding movement got a major boost this week when Elle Australia‘s June issue trickled into subscribers’ mailboxes. Right there on the cover, in a stunning head-on shot, is supermodel and new mom Nicole Trunfio breastfeeding her 4-month-old son, Zion.

Though it might look like pre-planned, the tender mother-son moment was anything but. Turns out, Baby Z got hungry during mom’s photo shoot, so Trunfio took a break to nurse him—and the photographer kept on shooting. Later, as she was flipping through the proofs, the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Justine Cullen, was so struck by the beauty of the feeding photos that she made the bold move to put one on the cover.

Labeled a “special issue,” the nursing cover will only be seen by subscribers, a point of contention for some who complain that the image deserves a place on newsstands. Still, the supermodel and breastfeeding champion seems grateful for the platform and the opportunity to do her part in making public breastfeeding more acceptable. She posted the cover on Instagram and wrote: “The last thing I want to do is to be controversial, so please take this for what it is, let us #normalizebreastfeeding there is nothing worse than a mother that is judged for feeding her hungry child in public. #weareonlyhuman. I’m so proud of this cover and for what it’s [sic] stands for.”

While she admits that the photo doesn’t capture what she normally looks like when nursing—I mean, would you wear suede during a feeding sesh?—Trunfio wrote that she wants it to “stand for all women out there, whether you breastfeed or not, we gave birth, we are women, we are mothers.” And the public is responding in kind. As of this writing, the model’s post has 14,400 likes—and plenty of comments from grateful moms.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

How to Hold Baby While Breastfeeding
How to Hold Baby While Breastfeeding
How to Hold Baby While Breastfeeding

Cover of Elle Australia courtesy of Nicole Trunfio via Instagram

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Is Breastfeeding as Magical as We Think It Is?

breastfeeding babyYesterday, Emily Oster dared to touch the third rail of motherhood: breastfeeding. In an article fittingly titled “Everybody Calm Down About Breastfeeding,” the mom, author, and Brown University economics professor dug deep into the pool of research and found that maybe nursing isn’t the magic cure-all we think it is.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that recent studies have linked a mother’s milk to everything from baby’s improved brain development to better jobs in the future. As Oster wrote, “If one takes the claims seriously, it is not difficult to conclude that breastfed babies are all thin, rich geniuses who love their mothers and are never sick a day in their lives while formula-fed babies become overweight, low-IQ adults who hate their parents and spend most of their lives in the hospital.”

It’s not so much that the current body of research is a bunch of malarkey, she says—it’s more that the data doesn’t tell the entire story. Oster wrote that in the majority of studies, authors don’t fully adjust for differences in the subjects’ race, education, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc., and breastfeeding isn’t randomly assigned. And in some cases, researchers’ own biases skewed results. So while the results are true to the study, they don’t translate into real life. In fact, when she looked at the research that came the closest to offering a complete picture of breast milk’s benefits, the proven perks fell to two: lowering baby’s chances of diarrhea and eczema.

To quote Peggy Lee, is that all there is?

As a vocal champion of breastfeeding, I’ve got to tell you, this was a tough read. By the end, I felt the same sense of confusion and deflation as I did on Christmas Eve in 1980, when my sister Michelle told me Santa Claus wasn’t real. This may not be the first time someone wondered whether breast really is best, but for some reason, Oster’s arguments struck a nerve.

It’s true that like the guy in red, some of the extolled benefits of nursing do seem a little far-fetched; I never could see the connection between breast milk and a higher IQ, for instance. But when you’re a believer, you tend to welcome the good news—any good news —with open arms. It bolsters your argument and proves that you’re right. Except when it doesn’t—and where do you go from there?

I imagine much more unbiased research is needed before the medical community changes its stance on nursing. (The American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization currently recommend exclusive breastfeeding for baby’s first six months of life.) In the meantime, I’d hardly be tempted to toss out my nursing bra. After all, there are still a number of undisputed benefits, like the bonding opportunities, the easy convenience and the low cost. But this article is a good reminder for me that though breast was best for me and my child, that’s not the case for everyone—and it doesn’t have to be.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Store Breast Milk Safely
Store Breast Milk Safely
Store Breast Milk Safely

Image of breastfeeding baby courtesy of Shutterstock

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Dads Don’t Do Baby Talk—And That’s OK

dad and babyToday’s dads are pretty awesome: They’re more hands-on with the kids. They’re starting to speak up about work-life balance. And if it’s decided that someone should stay home and raise the family, more of them are willing to volunteer

Just don’t expect them to baby talk

According to a new study from Washington State University, Spokane, a mom tends to adopt a singsony voice when addressing her infant, even raising the pitch of her voice some 40 hertz. Meanwhile a dad’s voice barely changes when chatting with his child. In other words, men use the same tone of voice whether they’re talking binkies with their baby or baseball stats with their buddy.

And it’s not just our tone of voice that’s different, explained Mark VanDam, the head of the study and a professor in the university’s speech and hearing sciences department. “Moms talk a lot more, both in overall words and in minutes of talking,” he told the Seattle Times. “Dads use fewer words. Even though they speak fewer words, they use a wider variety of words.”

Thankfully, this duality can be beneficial for babies“We think that the fathers are doing things that are conducive to their children’s learning but in a different way,” he said. “Moms provide the link to the intimate or the domestic. Dads provide a link to the outside world.”

While I’m hesitant to embrace any generalization, especially when it comes to parenting styles, it’s worth noting that VanDam’s study jibes with other research about the way we communicate with our babies. And he certainly did his homework: To reach his conclusion, he analyzed 2,000 days worth of data from 120 families, focusing specifically on 11 families with kids around 2 1/2 years old. In those cases, he attached a voice-recognition device onto the toddler’s shirt and recorded a whopping 13.5 hours of child-parent interactions. (Side note: Can you imagine someone recording a half day of you talking with your baby?!)

What I like about this study is that, unlike other ones, there’s no guidance or call to action. We’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, as VanDam’s study suggests, when it comes to chatting up our babies, there’s room for all sorts of styles. But I’m curious: Do you think these findings will change the way you or your partner talk to your baby? Share it in the comments section below.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Ways to Encourage Language Development
Ways to Encourage Language Development
Ways to Encourage Language Development

Image of father and son courtesy of Shutterstock

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Mom Gives Birth to Identical Triplets—Two of Whom Are Conjoined

identical tripletsWhen Silvia Hernandez found out she was pregnant with her second baby, she and husband Raul Torres were thrilled. Then an ultrasound revealed that she was carrying identical triplets—and the couple were overjoyed. But their excitement would be short-lived: Three months into the pregnancy, Hernandez found out two of her babies were conjoined at the pelvis.

The chances of having identical triplets, two of whom are conjoined, are incredibly rare: one in 50 million, to be exact. And considering the grim reality facing many conjoined twins, the couple were understandably upset. “The truth is i cried, not because of how the babies would look because we knew we would do our best to give them the best and most productive life posible, [sic]” Hernandez wrote on Facebook. “I cried because the doctor said we had to understand and accept the fact that once they were born they could die.”

But it seems like the future is looking up for these against-all-odds babies. On Saturday, the brave mama delivered her three daughters by c-section, a few days ahead of schedule. Born just shy of 34 weeks, the babes— Catalina, Ximena, and Scarlett—all weigh 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Miraculously, they’re breathing without the help of a respirator and are reportedly in good condition.

Catalina is with Hernandez at Corpus Christi Medical Center, while Ximena and Scarlett, who share a colon, were transferred to Driscoll Children’s Hospital. It will be 6 months to a year before they can be separated. Dr. Haroon Patel, a pediatric surgeon at the hospital, told the Associated Press that the kiddos need to get “bigger and stronger” before undergoing the complex operation; in the meantime, doctors will be mapping out exactly how to separate them.

We’ll be keeping an eye on these amazing girls—and keeping our fingers crossed for a smooth, successful surgery down the line.

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Labor & Delivery: What to Expect in a C-Section
Labor & Delivery: What to Expect in a C-Section
Labor & Delivery: What to Expect in a C-Section

Image of Silvia Hernandez courtesy of Silvia Hernandez via Facebook

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Mom Delivers Preemie in Hong Kong…and Is Now Stuck There

morrowIt takes more than half of a day to fly from the U.S. to China. It’s an exhausting flight for anyone, but especially if you’re pregnant. Although she was at 32 weeks, Wendy Morrow was making that trip. Her brother was getting married in China, and she didn’t want to miss it. Her pregnancy had been healthy and free of complications, and her ob-gyn gave her the green light to travel. (Most doctors restrict travel around 36 weeks.) But to be on the safe side, she bought three separate traveler’s insurance policies and hopped aboard a flight.

Somewhere in the Hong Kong airport, when she and her sister were switching planes, Morrow’s water broke and she went into labor. Baby Kyuss was born 8 weeks premature in a Hong Kong hospital and transferred to the NICU.

And that’s when things got tough.

Because Kyuss was delivered on foreign soil, Morrow’s insurance company refused to pay for the hospital stay or postnatal care. Medicare/Medicaid turned her down for the same reason. And since the baby’s name wasn’t on the traveler’s insurance policies, his expenses aren’t covered. As of this writing, Morrow’s bills total $27,200 and are rising by $1,600 every day. (A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family, and so far some $25,000 has been donated.)

But the mounting costs aren’t just a financial drain—they also prevented Morrow from getting the wheels in motion to bring her child home to Iowa, where her husband and daughter are. That’s because initially, the hospital wouldn’t release the baby’s birth certificate—a must to get the ball rolling on his passport—until the bills were paid in full. Administrators have since backtracked, after Morrow’s story made international headlines.

Now, with birth certificate in hand, the new mom can start preparing for her family’s return home. Earlier today, U.S. Embassy officials issued Kyuss’ passport in a whirlwind one hour. But the question remains: When can he leave the hospital and make the long journey back to the States? He’s still being tube-fed every other feeding and is exhausted easily. On her Facebook page, Morrow wrote that she’ll confer with doctors tomorrow to figure out a release date and determine what provisions need to be made for the flight home.

In the meantime, she and her sister Sara are trying to stay positive and focus on the baby. “What a wonderful blessing, Kyuss you are loved by many,” Sara wrote on Facebook over the weekend. “This has been an eye opening experience. A lot of lessons have been learned. But the true testament was the strength. The passion and power the love mother has for a child.”

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Birth Stories:
Birth Stories:
Birth Stories: "My Water Broke..."

Image of Kyuss and Wendy courtesy of Wendy Morrow viaFacebook

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