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Last Call! Make Your Nominations for a Parents Social Media Award!

Monday, December 9th, 2013

Is there a Pinterest wiz you’re obsessed with? A Twitter feed that makes you laugh? Tell us about it! Nominations for the 2014 Parents Social Media Awards close today, so get yours in now. Last year’s contest opened readers’ eyes to some of the greatest voices in parenting on social media, and we’re excited to share even more. So nominate your favorites this year in our newly expanded contest!

We’ve opened the nominations up to include these social media categories:

-Best on Pinterest

-Best on Facebook

-Best Blog

-Best on Twitter

-Best on Instagram

-Best on Tumblr

-Best All-Around

Then come back to vote for the finalists December 30, 2013 — January 13, 2014. You could help select a winner to be featured in an upcoming issue of Parents. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!

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What You Need to Know About Cord Blood Banking

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

Moms-to-be follow a near universal checklist when preparing for birth. Prenatal vitamins? Got it. Hospital bag? All set. Cord blood banking? For most moms, probably not. But anyone who’s ever considered the process should be armed with the facts.

At the Gift from a Newborn Baby conference, Rallie McAllister, M.D., author of The Mommy MD Guide (in conjunction with the Cord Blood Registry), discussed collecting and registering blood from umbilical cords for possible future medical treatment.

After the umbilical cord is cut, the obstetrician will harvest the stem cells in a non-surgical procedure. The cells can then be stored indefinitely in a secure holding environment and withdrawn when needed. Stem cells have already been used to treat a number of diseases, including sickle cell disease and aplastic anemia. However, it’s important to note that cord blood banking isn’t a fail-safe insurance plan, even when a child’s own stem cells are used. For example, a child’s own cord blood can’t be used for treating her leukemia because her stem cells already contain the disease, rendering a transfusion useless.

Cord blood stem cells can be donated for public use or registered privately within a family. While some families see security in banking their own members’ cord blood for an emergency, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against it, instead encouraging families to donate to public banks for people in need. The Academy also cautions viewing cord blood registry as a backup plan, stating that “there are no accurate statistics on the likelihood of children someday needing their own stored cells.”

Shelly Connelly, a mother who spoke at the function, had a positive experience with cord blood banking. Her daughter Peyton had a brain tumor removed when she was a year old and suffered a major stroke two weeks later that left the right side of her body paralyzed. However, Connelly had registered Peyton’s cord blood at birth, which was used in a simple transfusion. Peyton can now sing, dance and play with ease.

Peyton’s story is uplifting, but concerns about cord blood banking persist. One of the biggest is cost, which comes to about $2,000 per individual collection and banking. And because of the uncertainty of its necessity and usefulness, many parents hesitate to put down such a sizable amount of money after an already pricey birth.

Cord blood banking is an obscure concept to many, so it’s often up to mothers and their partners to initiate the conversation with obstetricians. Parents who want to register their newborn’s cord blood need to prepare before labor. Expectant families must provide their obstetrician with advance notice that they wish to have their baby’s cord blood collected and should always discuss the cost, risk and necessity.

Cord blood banking is an entirely personal decision that moms and partners need to thoroughly research. Talk to your obstetrician and find out whether it’s right for your family.

 Image via Shutterstock
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Why I Love My Family’s Offbeat Thanksgiving Tradition

Monday, November 18th, 2013

For many, Thanksgiving conjures up images of sweet potato pie, good company and relaxing in a tryptophan-induced state in front of a TV tuned to football. For me, it’s Popeyes.

Yes, the Cajun-inspired fried chicken chain never fails to give me the warm holiday fuzzies, because their turkeys are front and center at the Haskins family Thanksgiving table. It’s a tradition that began in jest, but has become a source of bonding for me and my parents. And it suits us perfectly — an offbeat turkey for a quirky family.

I first proposed the idea in high school, having spotted some mouthwatering posters for Cajun deep-fried Thanksgiving turkeys at a local Popeyes franchise. My mom was offended. Would I seriously choose fast food over her lovingly prepared, if admittedly slightly dry, turkey? I didn’t want to answer truthfully. But for years I pleaded, both to playfully torment my mom and because a Cajun deep-fried turkey really did sound delicious.

“Moooom, can we get a Popeye’s turkey this year?” I would beg each time we passed the restaurant, my nose pressed against the car window with the smell of Louisiana goodness wafting in.

“Absolutely not,” she’d scoff, and the car would zoom past the Popeyes, the scent of oily, fragrant chicken trailing us. End of discussion.

But my only child charm and the impending thought of my last Thanksgiving at home before heading to college coerced my mom into granting one silly request before our little family split up. So for Thanksgiving of my senior year, my mom relented, stuck a Popeyes turkey in the oven, and several hours later, we enjoyed (somebody else’s) scrumptious home cooking. (But as far as I’m concerned, putting something in the oven totally counts as cooking. And by that token, mom cooks a mean bird.)

We’ve all grown fond of the Popeyes turkey, and dare I say, proud, of our odd family practice. I don’t like homemade cranberry sauce. But I do like deep-fried turkey with a side of mashed potatoes and spicy gravy. If it works for my family, why bother with a Rockwell portrait spread? Even my dad, who always claims to be on some sort of diet, delights in the now almost annual treat.

Everyone has their own endearing shortcut that makes their meal their own, I’ve found. The only Thanksgiving I spent at college, a beloved professor let me and a few students in on his little secret. Two words: Boston Market.

It’s these imperfections that make family traditions so memorable. I’m sure some mythologically flawless families would be horrified by our low-key holiday, but we’re the ones who are enjoying every last bite. It’s your family tradition — I say, really make it one that you can look back on fondly, no matter what that entails.

Image via Shutterstock 

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Show Your Support for World Prematurity Day

Friday, November 15th, 2013

The World Prematurity Day conference at the United Nations Headquarters this week featured a lineup of prominent speakers, including Jennifer L. Howse, president of March of Dimes, and Her Royal Highness Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan. But it was 10-year-old Kristina Lincoln who really shone at the event. She and her mother shared their story of Kristina’s premature birth, and expressed their gratitude for the efforts of March of Dimes in helping the now vibrant and healthy girl.

Kristina’s outcome shows that through the concerted efforts of hardworking people, babies born prematurely can not only survive, but also thrive. As the leading cause of newborn death, prematurity is an issue that mothers and families across the globe must get behind to make a difference.

Why Does World Prematurity Day Matter?

World Prematurity Day, which takes place on Nov. 17, is a united global effort to diminish the alarming rates of premature births around the world. Prematurity can impact women regardless of race, ethnicity, geographic location or income, but unfortunately, economic disparities often mean the difference between life and death for newborns. Babies born in poor countries are 10 times more likely to die from premature birth than those born in affluent countries.

Premature birth often means tragedy for developing countries with mothers lacking access to quality medical care and support, but the crisis is far-reaching, even in the wealthiest countries. The United States has the highest rate of premature birth in any industrialized country in the world, with 497,600 live preterm births last year. The number in Pakistan? 757,900.

Childbirth is a stressful experience, but turns frightening for mothers and families when their babies arrive too soon. Infants who arrive prematurely face lifelong health problems such as anemia, infections, breathing problems and brain hemorrhaging. The health of a child in her first days of life can impact her for years to come.

What Is Being Done to End Prematurity?

Medical experts recommend simple steps mothers can take to help prevent death from premature birth, such as practicing “kangaroo care,” or holding baby close to mom’s bare chest. Of course, these kinds of methods aren’t enough, especially for families in desperate need of advanced medical care for their babies. These mothers require care during labor, birth and the first few days of baby’s life to ensure wellness. Access to medication such as antibiotics and antenatal steroids are also key in saving young lives.

These are a few tenets of the Every Newborn Action Plan, whose goal is to end preventable deaths through evidence-based strategies. Fortunately, this initiative is just one of many created by philanthropic and medical organizations that are getting involved in the effort.

Many celebrities have also used their influence to spread awareness. Anne Geddes has filmed a heartwarming “virtual hug” video message for World Prematurity Day with a survivor she photographed early in her career. Geddes is joining the likes of Celine Dion, Thalia, Pink, Dr. Mehmet Oz and others in sharing their concern for premature babies everywhere.

What Can You Do?

You don’t have to be a medical expert or philanthropist to make a difference. Start by raising awareness through social media. Use the hashtags #WorldPrematurityDay, #BornTooSoon and #EveryNewborn on Twitter to join the worldwide conversation about prematurity. You can also spread the love by sending a virtual hug of your own through Facebook and other social media sites.

Anyone who has given birth prematurely understands how scary this time is. If you’ve given birth to a baby prematurely and haven’t told your story, consider sharing your experience with other families struggling with prematurity. Your support can comfort a family with a baby in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Turn your awareness into action by donating to worthy charities such as March of Dimes, Unicef and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helping struggling families and getting informed about the risk factors for premature birth for your own pregnancy. A significant amount of research has yet to uncover all the root causes of prematurity, but your time, money and concern can speed up the process so that every newborn has a chance at life.

 Image via Shutterstock
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Enjoy Candy With a Conscience This Halloween

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Halloween is one of my favorite holiday seasons. I take any opportunity to gorge on sugar and dress up like my favorite Mean Girls characters gleefully. But I also love this time of year because it gives me an excuse to stand on the soap box for one of my most valued causes: Fair trade.

Americans spend billions of dollars on Halloween candy, and it’s my hope that more of that money will be purchased for treats of the fair trade variety. Fair trade is a system of exchange for goods that have been produced with ethical standards. That means when you purchase fair trade products, your money is going toward the sustainability of communities that rely on just wages. This is crucial for workers in developing countries that produce cocoa, sugar and other food staples. And, what has always held the most weight for me, child labor is prohibited under fair trade practices, meaning that kids have the freedom to enjoy their childhoods, while adults can provide for their families.

As a child, knowing that kids my age could be harvesting the cocoa beans that went into some of my favorite chocolate treats broke my heart. That’s why to this day I’m strict about my chocolate intake, which is largely comprised of fair trade treats. I even wrote my college entrance essay about the importance of fair trade in my life and my personal campaign against child labor.

Depending on the age of your child, you can go as in depth as you want in explaining fair trade. But at the heart of it is a simple concept: giving people what they deserve for the work that they do. It’s a notion that encourages compassion toward others and doesn’t have to get political in terms of global economics or market competition. You and your family don’t have to make major lifestyle changes, either. Just incorporating a few products into your daily life is an altruistic initiative, from cleaning your home with fair trade supplies to wearing fair trade fashions. If you’re unsure if your goods are fair trade certified, just look for the logo on the packaging to confirm its authenticity.

I know for many parents, Halloween is more of a hassle than a celebration, often culminating in stomachaches and hyperactive children. That’s why I love introducing people to fair trade, which opens up a kinder, gentler side of Halloween. At least when you turn off the porch light and send your kids to bed, you can feel good about giving your trick-or-treaters and your own witches and monsters candy with a conscience. Now that’s sweet.

Here are some of my favorite fair trade certified treats:

-Equal Exchange Chocolate Bars

-Ben & Jerry’s various fair trade flavors

-Lake Champlain Organic Fair Trade Hot Chocolate

-Divine Chocolate Milk Chocolate Mini Pieces

Not sure what you’ll be yet? Use our Halloween Costume Finder, and then buy your favorite Halloween costumes at Shop Parents. 
Image via Shutterstock
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