Got boys? Then you’ll want to make sure daddy is highly involved, right from the get-go. A new study suggests that when a father is more actively engaged with his son during infancy, there is a lower risk of behavioural problems later in life.
The beneficial effect was, in fact, observed for both boys and girls—but the effect was strongest in boys. Interesting, no? The behavioural problems we’re talking about, here, included things like: difficulty making friends, poor school performance, and delinquent behaviour.
I have two sons. And a husband who is (mostly) a stay-at-home dad, so I count myself supremely lucky. Even still, I worry about my boys (what—a mother who worries? Weird.) and I’m interested in anything I can do to protect my boys. See, I have to confess: half the time I have no idea what goes through their little minds. I’m an unrepentant girly-girl and have firm roots in the female world. (I have 2 sisters. Yes, there will be a bathroom in heaven for my dad.) So this whole "raising boys" thing is foreign and, to be honest, a little terrifying for me. I dread the day when one of my boys comes home from school with a black eye. And contact sports? Not sure I’m going to be able to handle it.
I’ll be interested to see if further research supports the results of this study. I view it as a wonderful evolution in our society that fathers are playing a increasingly significant role in kid-raising. At school drop off, it seems like half the parents there are dads. Yay, dads!
So if you're with me, ladies, and you agree that dads are pretty important (in spite of their
control issues over the TV remote er, quirks) and you want to keep that baby-daddy healthy...here's how.
Now, tell me...what’s the relationship between your kids and their dad?
(As a sidebar...looking for pictures of dads & babies for this post was one of the best parts of my week. A little like porn for mummies, I must admit...)
Let's clear up some common myths about the sun today, shall we?
When I was a teenager, I had one quest for the summer: bronze skin. Achieving a fabulous tan had supreme importance in my universe. And I was not alone in this. My friends and I slathered our skin with baby oil, angled our foil reflectors towards the sun...sound familiar, anyone?
Yes, I shudder at the thought now. (And stare in dismay at the little lines and age spots that are only now starting to appear. Of course I have no one else to blame...my own damn fault...)
Still, I think I cleaned up my act pretty early on and in my twenties started swapping my Coppertone SPF 2 Dark-Tanning Oil for something closer to SPF 15. I now wear SPF 50 like a religion, year-round. Because it's never too late to slow that pesky aging process--and now I know stuff like this: most skin aging, on your face and hands, is due to repeated sun exposure...and only a little bit due to actual aging. Shocking, but true.
I must admit, I still feel a little sheepish revealing my pale legs in the summer. (I have a Welsh mother and an English father. The British are not exactly known for their golden tones. Pasty, some might call it.)
My sister, with the same skin tone, says she used to feel ashamed but now she says: "I don't care. I'm rocking the pale legs and I'm good with that."
Wouldn't it be fab if more celebs (like Ann Hathaway—yay!) would "rock the pale leg thing"? Then, we'd be full-circle and pale would be fashionable again. It was once. It used to be a sign of the leisure class (farmers and labourers were the only ones out in the sun, right?).
I mean, I'd like to be part of the leisure class, wouldn't you?
In the meantime, while we're waiting for the cycles of fashion to turn, let's take a moment to clear up some myths about the sun.
Unfortunately, no. That's because UV damage from sun exposure is cumulative. Any sun exposure accelerates skin aging and increases your risks of skin cancer. Basically, tanned skin is damaged skin. It's been estimated that a base tan provides protection roughly equivalent to SPF 2 or 3. Somewhat under the recommended SPF 30, wouldn't you say?
No. Step away from the tanning bed. Tanning booths are a bad idea—The World Health Organization recently moved tanning beds to its highest-risk category for causing cancer (Group 1: Carcinogenic to Humans). Meaning, it's now in the same category of carcinogen as cigarettes, arsenic, asbestos, and plutonium. If you need more convincing, read this scary research about the deep skin damage caused the sun by our beauty guru, Dan Thompson.
Most people don't apply nearly enough sunscreen. You actually need to apply 1 oz of sunscreen (a shot glass full) to sufficiently cover an adult—most people apply only 25-50% of the recommended amount. Pro-rate that amount for your kids, depending on their size. What's more, you really should reapply every 2 hours, and after swimming/sweating. Or after vigorous water-gun fights, if your household is anything like mine.
This is a common argument given in support of tanning, but it's a myth. Although it's the traditional way our bodies make vitamin D, it's perfectly acceptable—and in my book, a far better idea—to get vitamin D through diet or supplements. Read this for everything you need to know about vitamin D.
It's critical. Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a child's lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. Plain and simple, it's your job to protect your kids from the sun.
You need "broad spectrum," which covers both UVA rays and UVB. Although most sunscreens protect from UVB rays (which cause sunburns), only broad spectrum also protects against UVA rays (which cause sunburns and all the premature aging and skin cancer).
The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends a minimum SPF 30. Also: avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. Here's a handy rule of thumb: If your shadow is shorter than you are, it's time for you & your kids to seek shade. And don't forget a hat...and super-glam sunglasses, of course.
As a side note, one thing I have never been able to master is the proficient application of self-tanner. It ends up streaky, it smells bad, it's supremely time consuming...if anyone has any advice along these lines, I'm all ears...
Click for more sun safety tips.
During pregnancy, we take good care of our bodies: we choose healthy foods, we take our vitamins, we banish harmful substances like cigarette smoke and alcohol.
But what about mental health? If you’re pregnant—is stress something you need to be concerned about?
The effects of a mother’s emotions during pregnancy has not, until recently, been well-researched. But recent studies are beginning to give credence to folk wisdom: that too much stress for a pregnant woman is harmful for her developing baby.
The most clearly recognized effects are increased rates of preterm birth and low birth weight. Preterm infants are at higher risk of health complications: lung disease, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. Most recently, studies have suggested a link between excessive stress in mom and depression, irritability, and lower IQ in baby. Other possible outcomes? Increased rates of cerebral palsy, ADHD, anxiety, and language delay—although much more research is needed here.
So what happens, exactly, in the body of a chronically tense and overwrought mom?
Stress hormones surge and blood vessels constrict, reducing placental blood flow. The placenta itself increases production of CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone). This hormone, known as the ‘placental clock,’ helps control the onset of labor. When CRH levels are too high, the risk of preterm labour increases.
Of course, we’re all under a certain amount of pressure. But here's the tricky question: how much stress is too much?
Researchers are working on objective methods, like blood tests, to measure this. In the meantime, we have to rely on softer methods.
Try the assessment tool developed by Dr. Calvin Hobel, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in LA. For each question, answer “yes,” “sometimes,” or “no.” Three or more “sometimes” or “yes” answers? You may have excessive stress.
Let’s say you’ve decided your stress level is too high and you’re worried about the effects on your unborn baby. What to do?
Fortunately, there are numerous strategies for coping. For starters, identify your particular sources of stress. Is it the pregnancy itself that’s got you worried? Or are there other factors in your life? Some soul-searching is in order, here, as you search for creative ways to deal with your triggers.
Next, simplify. Today, we assume we can continue to do it all throughout pregnancy: work full-time, take care of household and family, maintain a full social life, hit the gym on a regular basis, and make time for the myriad tasks that tug at us. While you’re pregnant, put aside those superwoman urges, and prune out everything but the most important. For instance, cut back on household chores. Taking time to rest and rejuvenate with a soothing bath or a good book is more important than a sparkling kitchen floor.
Practice saying no. Resist taking on more responsibilities. And speaking of superwoman, you might want to reconsider your work schedule. If you can scale back, or start your maternity leave early, do it. These days it’s common for women to work right up until they deliver. But perhaps it’s time to rethink this.
Sleep is crucial. Get to bed early and nap when you can. Consider shaking up your routines—for example, try showering at night, and enjoy an extra 45 minutes of sleep in the morning. And make sure you’re eating well. Take time for breakfast, and have frequent meals—prolonged periods without food can increase CRH levels.
Nurture your spirit. Spoil yourself with a prenatal massage or manicure. Attend prenatal yoga classes. Sign out a book from the library on relaxation, breathing, and meditation techniques.
Remember that it’s natural during pregnancy to have more mood swings and anxieties than usual. Your body is morphing, your hormones are doing crazy things, and you’re trying to prepare for an enormous life change. It’s also natural to worry about your unborn baby, too. Is she healthy? Is he developing normally? Trouble is, this creates a catch-22, knowing that anxiety itself can be harmful. What to do? Beyond the above ideas, make sure you’re communicating with your partner. Confide in family and friends. And talk to other moms-to-be: chances are these women are going through the same things you are.
If all this is still not helping, it’s time to ask your caregiver to refer you to a counselor or therapist.
Above all, remember that pregnancy should be a time to slow down and take care of yourself—body and soul—which in turn takes care of your precious cargo.