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5 things to know before banking your newborn’s cord blood

Most people wouldn’t dream of buying a car or a house without purchasing an insurance plan, too—you simply never know what will happen. That’s the attraction of banking your newborn’s umbilical cord blood, too.


The blood in a baby’s umbilical cord contains blood stem cells, which can grow up to be almost any kind of blood or immune cell they’re coaxed to be.

These stem cells can treat conditions such as leukemia, anemia, sickle cell disease and other rare diseases.

You may have seen brochures in your doctor’s or midwife’s office about the value of storing baby’s precious cache of stem cells. If your child or a sibling develops a rare disease or some other condition with few treatment options, cord blood in the freezer may come to the rescue.

But just how useful those cells might be for one of your children is hard to predict, and cord-blood banking companies often overstate the possibilities. It’s true that thousands of stem cell transplants have treated blood, immune and metabolic diseases since the late 1980s, but they’re also far from wonder cells.

Before you commit, here are the 5 things you need to know about banking umbilical cord blood.

What do these cells do that others can’t?

Until the discovery of cord blood stem cells, the only transplants that could treat conditions such as leukemia were bone marrow transplants, which carry a higher risk of blood-borne infections or the body’s immune system rejecting the transplant.

Stem cells offer a less risky alternative, but only for children. There aren’t enough cells in cord blood for an adult, and there are enough only for one transplant.

The process of stem cells “growing up” also takes longer after one of these transplants, which means there’s a longer window of possibility for infection.

So if my child has leukemia, their stem cells might help them?

Not necessarily. If your child’s immune cells couldn’t fight the leukemia already, more of the same cells are unlikely to help. Similarly, stem cells can’t help much if your child has a genetic disorder, because their stem cells have the same genes.

Stem cells are more likely to help siblings, but that’s only if the blood matches—a 25% chance.

What other conditions can stem cell transplants treat?

Currently, stem cells can successfully treat five types of conditions in people: blood cancers, bone marrow failure, genetic blood disorders, immunodeficiencies and genetic metabolic disorders. (Here’s a complete list of the conditions, most of which are fairly rare.)

It’s hard to estimate both the likelihood of these diseases afflicting your child or a family member and the likelihood that cord blood can help them, but estimates range from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 200,000. The most accepted number is about 1 in 2,700.

Clinical trials are testing how helpful cord blood might be for all sorts of conditions, from diabetes to cerebral palsy to neurological and autoimmune disorders. But most of these will never pan out, and “promising results” on treating deafness, arthritis, Parkinson’s and liver cirrhosis refer to studies in rats rather than humans.

So is there any point to banking?

Yes. If you know of a family medical history involving a condition that’s treatable with stem cell transplants, banked cord blood could be a lifesaver later on for a sibling or other family member.

The heartwarming success stories that companies describe are real, and people have definitely benefited from banked cord blood. Plus, technological advances may discover other remarkable uses for cord blood.

It’s just that the odds are pretty low that you’ll need them, and other treatments may come along in the meantime.

Like most insurance policies, cord blood banking is a gamble—and not a cheap one. Banks charge between $2,000 and $4,500 to store the blood for up to 21 years, usually requiring a yearly maintenance fee of $100 to $300 on top of that.

If you go with a commercial bank, research carefully how well the blood is stored and, if available, what FDA inspections have revealed about them.

Are there any alternatives?

Yes! If you decide commercial cord banking isn’t right for your family, you can also donate it to a public cord blood bank for research or treatments for other people. Donating is free.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to get it back if you need it later. However, if you know ahead of time that someone in the family may need it for a condition treatable with stem cells, you can make a “directed donation” that reserves it for that person’s use only (nontransferable and also offered by private banks).

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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