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Is Organic Healthier or Not?

Friday, September 7th, 2012

You may have read headlines recently exclaiming, “Organic Food is Not Healthier Than Conventional.” My first thought? Great! Now I don’t have to stand for five minutes in the grocery store, looking back and forth between the organic and conventional apples, wondering if I’m doing myself a disservice if I choose the latter (trust me. You don’t want to go grocery shopping with me. It can take hours!) But wait a minute. There’s a subtext to those headlines.


What’s fueled this most recent fire is research from Stanford University, which, after reviewing 237 studies on conventional versus organic produce and animal products, found little significant difference between the vitamin content of the two types of produce, and also no significant difference in the amount of protein and fat of the two types of milk (aside from omega-3s, which may be slightly higher in organic). They did, however, find that organic produce had 30 percent lower risk of containing pesticides—but that’s not to say that organic has no pesticides, and furthermore, conventional produce fell within the allowable limit for pesticides. They also found that eating organic chicken and pork may reduce your exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria—but they follow that with, “the clinical significance of this is unclear.” Confused yet? Me too. Then there are environmental factors and animal rights, which is a whole other can of worms that I won’t go into right now, but is certainly a factor in some decisions to eat organic.


In my past research on organic, the consensus seems to be if you’re going to eat conventional or nothing, then please, choose conventional, as long as you’re eating fruits and vegetables. I myself am a waffler. Sometimes I buy organic, other times I buy conventional. It all depends on my mood, how much I want to spend, which looks fresher and tastier, and whether I’ve just written a blog post about the pros and cons of organic. The fact is, there haven’t been any long-term or conclusive studies on this to date (that I’m aware of), and until there are, we can argue over this until the grass-fed cows come home. So now I haven’t really answered the question that tops this post, but I have laid out some evidence, which I hope will help you the next time you’re in the grocery store. Choose what you feel is right for you and your family, but do put low-fat milk, lean chicken, and fruits and vegetables in your cart—there’s mountains of research showing those are healthy. And if you happen to be in Queens, New York anytime soon, say hi to me. I’ll be the one reading every nutrition label on the shelf.


Image: Apples via Shutterstock.

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Health Care Law Offers New, Free Preventive Services for Women

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

Unless you’ve been living under that ol’ proverbial rock, you’ve probably heard about the Affordable Care Act. But even with all the buzz, you may still not fully understand everything that’s included, or how exactly it impacts you and your family. Plus, new things are being added. Today, a rule comes into effect that will grant women, with health plans renewing on or after today, access to eight prevention-related health services, at no cost to them. And that, as I understand it, is great news, especially for any woman who’s put off or avoided potentially life-saving preventive care because of cost. If you’re one of the 47 million eligible women, you’ll now receive the following, free of charge:

  • Well-woman visits
  • Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
  • Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
  • FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling
  • HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older
  • Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women
  • HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women

These are in addition to 14 other health care services already covered under the Affordable Care Act. As Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services, writes on, “women deserve to have control over their health care.” I’m not going to argue with that.

Image: Doctor with female patient via Shutterstock

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Fight Childhood Hunger, One Sip at a Time

Monday, June 11th, 2012

There are about 16 million children in the U.S. who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. And while many of these kids can count on a free or reduced-price meal during the school year through the National School Lunch Program, the summer can be an extra challenging time for families in need of food assistance. That’s why Feeding America, Juicy Juice, and Samantha Harris have teamed up to take part in the Fruit For All Project, which aims to provide up to 35 million pieces of fruit to hungry children and families this summer.


Want to get in on the cause? If you regularly buy juice for your family, consider picking Juicy Juice—from now until August 31, the company will provide one piece of fruit to Feeding America’s National Produce Program with each purchase. If, like me, you’re not a big juice-drinking family, you can also help out by playing weekly challenges on Juicy Juice’s website, or by using Juicy Juice to try out some juiced up recipes, like these on It’s a yummy way to support a good cause no matter how you look at it—and I’ll drink to that!

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To Help You Learn CPR, Start Humming “Stayin’ Alive”

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Let me start off by saying I hope you never have to use the information in this post. Before I lose you after you’ve read the first sentence, let me add that about 383,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest outside a hospital setting each year, so knowing CPR could be essential in saving someone’s life. And if the need ever does arise, it’s likely to be on someone you know: a child, spouse, parent, or friend, according to the American Heart Association.

As part of their campaign to encourage people to learn CPR this June for CPR Awareness Month, the AHA suggests you reacquaint yourself with the disco-era ditty Stayin’ Alive—it sets the perfect beat for saving someone who’s gone into cardiac arrest. The short instructions for performing CPR are call 911 and push hard and fast on the center of the chest. For a more detailed how-to, check out’s article here.

To help you remember the steps of CPR—and the song—the AHA has enlisted the help of The Hangover’s Ken Jeong and, of course, The Bee Gees, in this 2-minute video.

Image: Boy learning CPR

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New Discovery May Help Detect Autism Earlier

Friday, May 18th, 2012

As a health editor, autism is a common topic of conversation, and I’m always interested to hear about new research on the disorder. A few months ago, I had the chance to meet with Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism and Related disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, about a study that has just been released that could be helpful in detecting autism spectrum disorders earlier—an important finding, since early interventions are key to treatment. Here’s what I learned: In typical development, if you lay a six-month-old down on his back and pull him up gently by his arms, he’ll have enough head and neck control to bring his head up with his body. But in the study, researchers found that those at risk factor for developing the disorder (in this case babies with an older sibling on the autism spectrum) may not have the same control, and they’ll keep their head tilted back as they’re being pulled up. Curious to know the connection between head control and autism, Dr. Landa offered me this explanation: “Infants rely on motor development for social interactions and play development, so when we see motor delays during infancy, we want to address them.”

What’s great about the pull-to-sit test is that parents can do it at home and pediatricians can perform the same test in their offices. If you’re curious to try it, remember to make sure you have your child’s full attention. Otherwise, he may keep his head held back to look at an interesting toy or other person in the room. Another super important thing to remember: “We don’t want parents to think that just because their child shows a head lag he’s going to develop autism,” says Dr. Landa. “But it is important to talk to a pediatrician or other professional who can help parents better understand the implications.”


Click here to see an example of typical head and neck control.

This video shows an example of head lag.


Image: Baby holding feet

Videos: Kennedy Krieger Institute


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Have Questions About Cord Blood Banking?

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

The option to either donate your baby’s cord blood for public use or to bank it privately is not new, but the practice has been slow to catch on—only about 5 percent of new parents choose to save their newborn’s cord blood. If you don’t bank or donate it, it’ll get tossed as medical waste, but if you choose to save it, it can be used to treat about 80 blood disorders including non-hodgkins lymphoma, sickle cell anemia, and leukemia. What’s more, scientists are currently hard at work exploring whether cord blood stem cells might be helpful in the treatment of stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and type 1 diabetes. But backing up, a little more about the two options:

  • Donating: Kind of like donating blood, your baby’s cord blood gets put in a public registry and can either be used for research or to help people needing a transplant. This option is free.
  • Private banking: For a fee (which varies company to company), you can store your baby’s cord blood to be used only if your child or a family member ever needs it.

Unless there’s someone in your family with a medical condition that could benefit from a cord blood transplant, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends donating over banking privately. In most cases, if a child has a condition that could be helped by cord blood stem cells it will already be in the cord blood. Another important thing to note: Banks need to be notified 4 to 6 weeks before your due date if you’re interested in donating.


Intrigued by the option? Have questions? An online “mama-logue” will be taking place Friday, May 11 from 11am to 12pm EST to offer up more information about the two choices, criteria to use in selecting a cord blood bank, options for public donation, and more. Daria Klachko, MD, an ob-gyn at Saint Barnabas Hospital and Short Hills Surgery Center in New Jersey, Charis Ober, founder of Save the Cord Foundation, a nonprofit that provides educational information regarding cord blood preservation, and Lisa Valastro, wife of TLC’s Cake Boss, and a mother of four, will be hosting the webinar, and will be on hand to answer any questions you might have. Click here to register.



Image: Newborn in mother’s arms via Shutterstock

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Alyson Hannigan’s Potty Training Tips

Monday, February 27th, 2012

We’re gonna go ahead and guess that potty training isn’t your favorite part of parenthood. But it’s a task that every parent and child has to get through, so why not make it fun? This past weekend, How I Met Your Mother star Alyson Hannigan partnered with Pull-Ups to host a Potty Dance Party, introducing a new way to train. “Potty training is a big deal, so why not kick it off with a celebration?” says Hannigan. “The potty dance turns a daunting task into a fun, exciting experience.”  (See video clips of Hannigan’s Potty Dance Party here.)


How do you know if your tot is ready to start? If she shows an interest in the bathroom, tells you when she has to go, or asks to be changed, she’s giving you the hint. When that happens, kick off the training journey with a Potty Dance Party. “When my daughter was interested, I would sit her on the potty, and if she went it was a huge deal,” says Hannigan. “It wasn’t until I picked a day and committed to it, and began asking her every 20 minutes if she needed to go, that it actually worked.” That’s not to say she hasn’t had any hiccups (Hannigan notes a couple public-restroom-automatic-flush incidents that scared her daughter, Satyana), but the combination of keeping it fun and offering an organic-gummy-vitamin reward for going potty in public has helped them both get through training.


Visit to learn the potty dance steps and song and to start planning your own Potty Dance Party.

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Increasing Safety Concerns Over the Bumbo

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Warnings and news stories continue to come out against the Bumbo seat, and Parents News Now blogger Holly Lebowitz Rossi recently wrote about a lawsuit against the company involving a 9-month-old who fractured his skull after falling out of the chair. In October 2007, Bumbo issued a voluntary recall of the chairs and though they remain on the market today, they carry a warning label advising parents not to use the product on elevated surfaces. More recently, in November 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issued a release urging parents to use caution when using the Bumbo because serious head injuries continue to be documented despite the recall and warning label. These accidents have occurred when the seats were placed on chairs, countertops, tabletops, or other high surfaces, but also when used on the floor (cases have been reported of babies falling and hitting their heads on a hardwood floor or plastic toy). Children can fall out of the seats by arching their backs, leaning forward or sideways, or rocking.


Since the Bumbo is still sold in stores, we encourage you to take the following precautions if you have one in your house:

  1. Don’t use the Bumbo or similar seats on a tabletop, chair, countertop, or other elevated surface or on a hardwood floor.
  2. Keep your eyes on your baby at all times while he’s in the seat.
  3. Take your baby out of the seat as soon as he starts arching his back, leaning, or rocking in it.


What do you think? Should Bumbo be obligated to tweak its product so it’s safe, even when there’s no parental supervision? Or is it enough to put a warning label on the product and say it must be used with parental supervision? Do you own a Bumbo? Why or why not? Were you previously aware of these warnings, and have you ever left the room while your baby was in the seat?


Image from

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