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An Israeli research team from the prestigious Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center discovered that among menopausal women the most important factor contributing to quality of life is number of children. In other words, researchers were surprised to find that bigger families mean happier and more satisfied moms.

The research team interviewed 151 women between the ages of 45-55 and at various stages of menopause. Researchers asked the women about the severity of their menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. They also asked the women to rate their quality of life in terms of employment, health, intimacy, and emotional well-being. The researchers had thought they would find a correlation between the severity of menopausal symptoms and lower quality of life. To their surprise, they found that there is actually very little connection between menopausal symptoms and quality of life.

It turned out, instead, that the biggest factor contributing to quality of life among menopausal women is the number of children they have. Menopausal women with two or less children rated their quality of life as 91. In contrast, women with three or more children ranked their quality of life at 99.

Dr. Chaimov-Kuchman attempted to explain the research team’s unexpected findings, “One of our hypotheses is that women in Israel view menopause as the beginning of infertility…It could be that women who gave birth to 2 or less children feel that maybe that is not sufficient, and that they did not actualize their potential, and it’s possible that that has an impact on their quality of life.”

Read the original Hebrew article on this groundbreaking research

Special thanks to Rachel Reinfeld-Wachtfogel for sending this article my way!

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Safephoto © 2008 Mark Evans | more info (via: Wylio)
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Last week’s post “3 Surefire Ways to Get Babies and Toddlers to Sleep” was one of my most widely-read posts of all time. It was also maybe the most controversial, bringing in 25 comments ranging in response from lukewarm to livid. This week I asked one of women who commented on the post, Hannah Katsman from AMotherinIsrael.com, to write something up about her cry-free approach to getting babies and toddlers to sleep…

When it comes to night-waking, parents are led to believe that it’s all or nothing: You have a choice between total sleep deprivation until your children grow up, or train your children to sleep through the night. But that’s simply not true.

Sleep experts encourage this attitude by promoting the idea that parents are negligent if they don’t teach their children to “self-soothe.” And how are parents to “teach” this skill? By leaving the baby alone to cry.

There is plenty of research about the risk of excessive crying. But my problem with “crying it out” is more ideological. Forcing ourselves not to respond to crying desensitizes parents, Leaving babies alone to cry goes against our instincts—we’ve all heard about one parent blocking the bedroom door so the other won’t run in and ruin the experiment.

We should be wary of methods that ask us to ignore babies, even if only for a few minutes. Maybe the baby doesn’t technically “need” to wake up at night, but at that moment he’s in distress. Responding is the right thing to do. Babies are social creatures and like all mammals, they want to be with their own kind. They’re not designed to cope on their own, and we shouldn’t expect it from them. We don’t teach children by withholding love and comfort until they “learn” what we want from them.

All children will sleep through the night and learn “self-soothing” on their own. I know it’s not for everyone, but I co-slept and nursed my younger children at night as long as they asked. The advantages are many: Just going with the flow. No worries about “self-soothing.” Simplicity. It’s the “lazy” mother’s way to a good night’s sleep. Most of my kids stopped waking at night, without intervention, at about two and a half years.

Nursing mothers do get better quality sleep, even though their babies wake more frequently than their bottle-fed counterparts. That’s because the mothers are able to respond to their baby quickly. Co-sleeping moms share sleep cycles with their babies, so when baby wakes up it’s not in the middle of Mom’s deep sleep. Nursing at night prevents post-partum depression, and extends breastfeeding infertility.

Lactation experts have learned that there are great differences among women’s breasts regarding milk storage capacity. Some women can store only 80 cc. (2.75 ounces) of milk in their breasts at any one time, while others can store 600 cc. or over 20 ounces. The mother with low milk storage capacity will need to nurse very frequently, but over the course of the day the baby will get enough milk. So it’s quite possible that a baby is waking at night because he is really hungry, especially the kind of baby who nurses frequently during the day. And despite the comment parenting expert quoted in the original post, it’s not the kind of thing your doctor is likely to know about. The only thing most doctors learn about breastfeeding in medical school is that it’s “best.” Older babies and toddlers may be too busy to eat enough during the day. Moms, not doctors, know best about when their babies are hungry.

Children’s night-waking is a big problem for some moms. The moms can’t function well, or are prone to illness, and they don’t enjoy co-sleeping either. (For the record, I used to be a restless sleeper and hated co-sleeping at first.) Here are some suggestions I give to moms in that situation. Maybe one or two will work for you.
• Rest at other times. Sleep when the baby sleeps. This can mean a nap, or getting to bed at the beginning of the baby’s longest stretch of sleep at night. Try a mother’s helper if you have toddlers. Or ask your husband to take over the morning or evening chores so you can extend your sleep time.
• Cut back on other activities. Can you eliminate paid or volunteer work, carpooling, or social events? The baby is just doing what comes naturally, when our busy schedules are really the problem (Facebook, anyone?). But make at least one favorite activity a priority.
• Stick it out. Frequent night waking is often temporary and caused by teething, illness or a new developmental stage. Try not to make important decisions about night-waking or weaning during stressful periods.
• Rule out physical problems. One friend realized that her 2-year-old’s frequent wakings were accompanies by gassiness. When she eliminated a particular food, he slept all night for the first time in his life. Pay attention: Children may be scared or thirsty, but they don’t usually wake up in the middle of the night just for fun.
• Take a step back. It’s not wise to start a battle over physical functions like eating, sleeping or using the toilet. When we are anxious, the child feels insecure. She then more attention and comfort, and will increase whatever activity we are trying to stop.
• Look at the baby’s eating habits. Nursing more frequently in the evening, or adding a healthy snack, sometimes helps.
• Clarify your motivation. Often mothers start weaning or weaning from night-waking because of outside pressure, whether from health professionals, friends, or family members. If the mother or baby is not really ready, the baby may pick up on parental ambivalence. Then the weaning becomes much more difficult.
• Read The No-Cry Sleep Solution. Elizabeth Pantley’s book gives excellent suggestions for gently teaching babies and toddlers to fall asleep on their own without a breast, bottle or pacifier.

I like Pantley’s child-centered approach. But when reviewing the book for this post, I recalled some points that bothered me. Pantley recommends letting a newborn fall asleep without nursing some of the time. Following this tip, she writes, will ensure that you don’t have to reread the book at 18 months. In the next paragraph she admits that this goes against a mother’s instinct, and she wouldn’t do it with her next baby!

When my youngest was born, I treasured every nursing that ended with her releasing the nipple on her own, satisfied. Then there were the nursing that ended by my getting up to wipe off a tush. Just like I advise moms not to spend their maternity leave worrying about whether their baby will take a bottle, moms of newborns don’t need to stress about sleeping habits 18 months from now.

Here’s my own bonus tip for nursing moms: The next time you find yourself drifting off during the day, take the baby into your bed and nurse him. Both of you will fall asleep nearly instantly, even if your baby just woke from a nap. This worked for me the better part of the first year. Breastmilk makes babies drowsy, and nursing releases hormones that relax the mother as well.

I loved nursing my babies to sleep. Ninety percent of the time, it’s the most convenient thing to do. If you lose that tool, it becomes more difficult to put baby to sleep when you’re in an unfamiliar place. I found that the few times when I needed to be out of the house at bedtime, my husband or the babysitter managed to find ways to get the baby to sleep.

I’ll close with a weaning story. My son was two years old, and I was pregnant. Because nursing was so painful, I had stopped except before bed and in the middle of the night. One evening, I put on a nursing jumper so he wouldn’t have access to my breasts. I turned off all the lights, and sat with him in the rocking chair. I held him or walked with him until he fell asleep. Later he woke up and wanted to nurse, but fell asleep after a few minutes of comforting. It only took a couple of nights until he stopped waking up at night. But that didn’t mean he fell asleep easily. For a long period, my husband or I lay down with him for a half hour at bedtime. What can you do? Children need attention, and some need more than others.

Every child will be ready to sleep alone and through the night at a different age. Our role is to be sensitive to our children’s needs throughout the day and night. When our children’s needs conflict with ours, we don’t have to take it lying down—we can look for solutions that respect our role as nurturing parents.

Hannah Katsman is a mom of six, including two soldiers, and has counseled nursing mothers for over ten years. Her work with young families inspired her websites: A Mother in Israel on parenting, and Cooking Manager to help home cooks save time and money. Click here to see Hannah’s 9 Reasons to cook with your kids as well as more about co-sleeping here: Should Co-Sleeping Be Outlawed?

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page 241 Internal Earphoto © 2009 Sue Clark | more info (via: Wylio)
Follow these instructions:
1. Say the word “Hello”
2. Hear yourself say the word “Hello”
3. Read the description below of what just happened inside your ear.

“The outer ear, known as the pinna, collects sound waves and directs them into the ear canal, which carries the sound waves to the eardrum. In turn, the eardrum vibrates, and these tremors are picked up by the three tiny bones in the middle ear: the malleus (resembling a club), the incus (shaped like an anvil), and the stapes (similar to a stirrup.) These bones amplify the sound vibrations and transmit them to the inner ear, where the cochlea converts the vibrations into electrical impulses, which travel from the acoustic nerve to the part of the brain that processes sound, the auditory cortex.”*

I feel awe for G-d when I encounter the vast magnificence and beauty of the world He created—the Mitzpe Ramon crater, the vulture-diving cliffs of the Golan, the fireball of Sun going to sleep behind the Mediterranean. But I could feel that same awe every time I see or feel or smell or hear anything. I should feel awe for my Creator, who created the unfathomable, intricate wonder that is the human body.

* Taken from “That Buzzing Sound” by Jerome Groopman, February 9, ’09, The New Yorker

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I was really shocked yesterday to hear that a recently married woman I know gave birth last Wednesday to a baby at 27 weeks! I later found out babies born even at 24 weeks can survive outside the womb.

Nitsania Tova is teensy (1.7 pounds) but is doing well and appears to be healthy. Please pray for teensy Nitsania Tova bat Shayna Liebe that she should continue growing and will healthy and strong.

I found this video of another baby born at 27 weeks, to give you a sense of what such an extreme preemie looks like. May we hear a lot of good news from Nitsania Tova and her parents Shayna and Shaul David Judelman!

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If you read my post about the Haifa fire, you know that this week I have had the Messianic Era on the brain. And then my husband’s old and dear friend Yaal Herman sent this BBC video with more proof that we are living in a unique (pre-Messianic?) period of history…

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Rebbetzin Heller has VERY strong feelings about pain relief during labor. Please share your reactions to this controversial Naaleh.com video in the comments below…(A huge thanks to JewishMOM Sharona for sending me this link)

forward to 16:58 to watch…

Vodpod videos no longer available.


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Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user gwilmore

In 1993, Shula and I were roommates and dear buddies when we studied together for a year at Jerusalem’s Pardes Institute. After that tremendously fantastic and exciting year for me of falling in love with Israel, the Torah, and my boyfriend (now husband), Shula moved back to New York to start medical school, and I remained in Israel…After that, Shula and I lost touch for 17 years, until Shula found a link and we reconnected through this blog. Isn’t that wonderful? (I cannot tell you how many incredible blessings in my life have come through connecting with moms through this blog. Thank you Hashem for creating the internet and enabling and inspiring me to create JewishMom.com!).

6 years a nutritionist advised me to eat a tablespoon of ground linseeds in my oatmeal every morning, and I have religiously done so every morning since. At the time, the nutritionist stated mysteriously, “Linseeds are really good for mothers.” Now I understand why.

Here is Shula’s personal amazing account of how linseeds and Omega 3 helped her to overcome anxiety during a phenomenally stressful period of her life…

Just about five years ago, when I was nursing my then four month-old, I decided to add flax seeds to my morning oatmeal because I’d heard that “omega-3s” were good for babies and that flax was a good source. After a few months of steadily increasing the amount of flax, I arrived at work and was so noticeably calmer than usual, that a colleague even commented on it. At that point, I walked over to a computer and googled “omega-3 and anxiety” and discovered a trove of studies demonstrating CLEAR benefits.

If this sounds like one more anecdote citing help from a supplement, what I left out is that my husband had moved out the week earlier. I had spent that week distraught and overwhelmed. Before I made the connection between flaxseed and my mental health, I even considered the possibility that I’d used up my lifetime allotment for stress. (I know, if only….) In case you’re suspicious that my husband’s moving out was what alleviated my depression, the answer is a resounding NO. Full-time working and single parenting of an infant (however wonderful he is – and he IS!) is an incredibly stressful combination….

Baruch Hashem, life is smoother these days. Flax is my medication. My now five year-old has a calmer mother. He even reminds me to make sure I finish my “dose” if I’m running late in the morning….

How much to take? I grind my flaxseed fresh every morning – highly recommended due to waning potency over a week in the refrigerator. Somewhere between one teaspoon and two tablespoons is likely to work, with studies showing a person’s whole-body deficit taking weeks to months to replace before the anti-anxiety/depressive effect kicks in. (I was on for three months before I saw an effect. Also eliminated menstrual cramps….)

Google Omega-3′s and see for yourself!

A major caveat: My good friend who noticed my dramatic change in mood figured she should try it too, even though she was well-treated on Prozac. Within a week, she was deeply depressed. Clearly, Prozac worked for her, and the depression quickly lifted when she cut out the flax. So if you’re taking medication, please work with your mental health care provider if you are considering trying this….
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