Friday, May 17th, 2013
Rachael Clark, who was discarded in a trash can by her birth mother–umbilical cord and placenta still attached–shortly after her birth in 1989, is a remarkable young woman by any standard. Now 23 years old and about to graduate with straight As from the University of Maryland, Clark, who was raised by adoptive parents, is seeking her birth parents…to tell them she forgives them. More from NBC News:
The 23-year-old is so focused and busy that she sometimes forgets about the turmoil that’s dogged her since childhood. “Some days, it’s like it never happened,” Rachael said. “But some days, I really do struggle. I have such strong abandonment issues.”
Her issues stem from the way her life began. On Sept. 27, 1989, the day Rachael was born, she was sealed inside a dark garbage bag with her umbilical cord and placenta still attached. The trash bag was then thrown, hard, into a dumpster.
Minutes before she ran out of oxygen, someone heard her cries and saved her. Her abandonment and rescue in Temple Hills, Md., became one of the most widely publicized stories of its kind — so well-known, in fact, that Rachael overheard people talking about it in front of her when she was about 2.
Now, at this especially happy juncture in their lives, Rachael and her adoptive parents are speaking out about their story. They want to let other adoptive families know how normal it is to need help navigating the delicate process of telling adopted children about their violent or tragic pasts.
They’re also making their story public because, in spite of everything, Rachael has a persistent longing to find her birth parents.
“I just want to be able to tell them that I forgive them,” she said.
Wednesday, May 15th, 2013
In a move that is drawing a variety of opinions from people on every side of the debate over gun violence, the American Academy of Pediatrics appealed to Congress this month to pass legislation that includes an assault weapon ban, mandatory background checks and waiting periods before all firearm purchases, a ban on high-capacity magazines, handgun regulations and requirements for safe firearm storage under federal law. NBC News has more:
“I think we can be honest brokers,” says Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director for child advocacy and protection at University Hospitals, part of Case Western Reserve University’s school of medicine in Cleveland.
“We have to have a collectively louder voice,” Dr. Danielle Laraque, who chairs the pediatrics department at Maimonides Infants and Children’s Hospital in Brooklyn, told a meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. “What we need is a call to action, to really look at how we can change public policy that is not often affected by data.”
They don’t always get a friendly reception. Just two weeks before the doctors arrived, Congress had scuttled what gun-control advocates had considered a modest bill to expand background checks for gun sales.
Congress had already dropped a wider measure pushed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden after the December shootings of 20 schoolchildren and six adults in Newtown, Conn.
Image: Gun trigger, via Shutterstock
Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Although exclusive breastfeeding is recommended when medically possible, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that supplementing breast milk with formula will not compromise breastfeeding, and that in some cases formula may even help mothers to have successful breastfeeding experiences when their babies are losing weight. More from The New York Times:
Researchers randomly assigned 38 infants who had lost 5 percent or more of their weight in the days after birth to either breast-feeding alone (the controls), or breast-feeding along with a supplement of formula at the end of each session.
At 1 week of age, all were still breast-feeding, but 9 of 19 infants in the control group were now using formula, compared with only 2 in the group that had used formula at the start. By age 3 months, 79 percent of the early formula users were breastfeeding exclusively, compared with 42 percent of the controls.
The researchers emphasize that they used a careful procedure — small volumes of formula and careful administration with a syringe to prevent confusion between breast and bottle nipple.
“Most babies don’t need formula,” said the lead author, Dr. Valerie J. Flaherman, a pediatrician at the University of California, San
Francisco, Benioff Children’s Hospital. “But some kids are at risk for weight loss, and this could be an option.”
Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock
Friday, May 10th, 2013
Merida, the spunky, wild-haired heroine of the Disney film “Brave,” is set to become Disney’s 11th official princess on May 11. But a makeover of her look has moms and fans incensed and disappointed that Merida’s new appearance puts her in line with stereotypical princess and distances her from what many moms considered to be her status as the first feminist princess. More from The Huffington Post:
For parents who have been frustrated by the messages Disney princesses send to young girls (look pretty, find your prince, live happily ever after), introducing a character like Merida seemed to be a step in a good direction. As HuffPost blogger Kristen Howerton wrote when the film was first released, “‘Brave’ may be considered by many to be the first feminist princess movie. Merida does not pine for a prince to come to her rescue, and solves her own problems without the aid of a suitor.” The character was independent, hada realistic body type, and succeeded sans prince charming. Unsurprisingly, messing with that by giving her a new look is causing an uproar.
A Mighty Girl, a female empowerment website, has launched a petition on Change.org to convince Disney to leave Merida alone. Clearly, she has a loyal fanbase — the petition has almost 19,000 signatures.
The letter on Change.org reads, in part:
“The redesign of Merida in advance of her official induction to the Disney Princess collection does a tremendous disservice to the millions of children for whom Merida is an empowering role model who speaks to girls’ capacity to be change agents in the world rather than just trophies to be admired. Moreover, by making her skinnier, sexier and more mature in appearance, you are sending a message to girls that the original, realistic, teenage-appearing version of Merida is inferior; that for girls and women to have value — to be recognized as true princesses — they must conform to a narrow definition of beauty.”So far, there has been an outpouring of agreement. Peggy Orenstein, the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter who is often at the forefront of discussions about how princess culture affects young girls, thinks Merida’s makeover sends a terrible message: “In the end, it wasn’t about being brave after all. It was about being pretty,” Orenstein writes on her personal blog.
Image: Merida’s new look (left) and her original appearance (right), via The Huffington Post
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Every mother has been faced with what to do with a baby’s pacifier that has been tossed onto the floor. Do you rinse? Wash carefully with hot water? Or, do you just suck it for a moment to clear away the debris, and hand it back to your baby? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that the latter method may actually have some health benefits. The New York Times has more:
In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them. They also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders.
The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.
The study, carried out in Sweden, could not prove that the pacifiers laden with parents’ saliva were the direct cause of the reduced allergies. The practice may be a marker for parents who are generally more relaxed about shielding their children from dirt and germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research.
“It’s a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children,” he said. “I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less ‘disinfected’ environment in their homes.”
Studies show that the microbial world in which a child is reared plays a role in allergy development, seemingly from birth. Babies delivered vaginally accumulate markedly different bacteria on their skin and in their guts than babies delivered by Caesarean section, and that in turn has been linked in studies to a lower risk of hay fever, asthma and food allergies. But whether a mother who puts a child’s pacifier in her mouth or feeds the child with her own spoon might be providing similar protection is something that had not been closely studied, said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, the lead author of the study.
In fact, health officials routinely discourage such habits, saying they promote tooth decay by transferring cavity-causing bacteria from a parent’s mouth to the child’s. In February, the New York City health department started a subway ad campaign warning parents of the risk. “Don’t share utensils or bites of food with your baby,” the ads say. “Use water, not your mouth, to clean off a pacifier.”
Despite the study’s findings, parents should exercise common sense when cleaning pacifiers that have been dropped into very germ-laden situations, such as a garbage can or bathroom floor.
Image: Red pacifier, via Shutterstock