Can’t go all-organic? Begin here to jump start healthy eats for mom + baby

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We all want to buy the food that is best for us, but is organic food actually better for us? Is it worth the extra cost? In this post we’ll take a look at what the term “organic” means, how this impacts us, and strategies for shopping organic.


What Does Organic Mean?

What the organic label means is slightly different for animal products versus produce and other food products.

Organic animal products, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, comes from animals that have not been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic produce and packaged food (such as cereal or tomato sauce) is grown and produced without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation. Organic foods are also generally free of fortifying agents such as preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colors, or flavors, and MSG. In addition, the farmers who produce organic food are focused on using renewable resources and conserving soil and water for future generations.

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So all the above sounds good. Does that mean organic better for you?

Organic farming practices are certainly better for the environment, but whether or not organic food is better for you is an issue of ongoing debate and research. To get a better understanding of the complexity involved, let’s take a snapshot look at how conventional farming practices such as pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones affect food and whether the nutritional composition of organic foods is different from conventional.

What Does Organic Mean for Me?

When it comes to organic vs non-organic, there are several high-level concepts to consider: pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, and nutrition.

Pesticides

In conventional farming, farmers treat their crops with synthetic pesticides to prevent disease and make them more resilient. Unfortunately, this usually means that some of the pesticide contaminants stay on the crops. Pesticides are toxic to human health, but the amount of pesticides found on foods is very small–the EPA regulates how much pesticide residue is allowed on any food. However, the more pesticides you are exposed to, the greater your risk of harm from them. Those at greatest risk are the workers who grow and handle the food.

Children and unborn babies may also be more sensitive to certain pesticides.

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The amount of pesticides found in fruit and veggies varies depending on the type. For example, certain produce, including peaches, nectarines, and grapes, tend to contain a lot of pesticide residue, while others, such as avocados and pineapples, contain hardly any. In general, fruits and veggies with thick shells contain less pesticide residue because it’s harder for the pesticides to permeate through the skin. To find out what produce is most contaminated refer to the dirty dozen list. You should also look at the “clean 15” list of the least contaminated fruits and veggies.

Antibiotics

As for animal products such as meat and dairy, carrying the organic label means that the animal has never been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones and has been fed a diet that adheres to strict organic standards. Antibiotics are a hot topic these days, as the overuse of antibiotics has caused more people and animals to develop antibiotic resistance. Most experts agree that minimizing the use of antibiotics in the food system is vital to our current and future health.

Growth Hormones

Some conventional dairy cows are treated with growth hormones to stimulate milk production. While the growth hormone itself is unlikely to survive pasteurization or human digestion, the milk from hormone-treated cows contains higher levels of Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-I) than the milk from non-treated cows. IGF-I is found to some extent in all animal products, and some studies have linked it to cancer. However, other studies, along with the American Cancer Society, say the evidence is inconclusive.

Nutrition

What about the nutritional makeup of organic versus nonorganic food? Results here are mixed. A widely cited 2012 study by Stanford University looked at more than 200 studies and concluded there was little health benefit to eating organic food. But then in 2014, another major study out of Europe, looked at over 300 studies and concluded that organic fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of antioxidants than their conventional counterparts.

Research also shows that grass-fed organic cows produce milk with more omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy anti-inflammatory fat. In contrast, conventional dairy cows fed a mainly corn-based diet produce milk with higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, a pro-inflammatory fat. Both conventional and organic farms raise grass-fed cows, so only purchasing milk labelled as grass-fed assures a healthy balance of fatty acids in your milk. But while more omega-3’s is a great thing, ounce for ounce, you get much more omega-3 from eating fatty fish such as wild salmon than you do from a glass of milk.

Bottom Line

We know that organic farming practices are better for the environment and the workers handling the food. Whether choosing organic food over conventional will affect your health significantly is unclear, but it’s a hot topic and therefore likely that new research will continue to come out in this area.

In the meantime, if you can afford to buy mostly organic, do it. It’s better for the environment, it’s better for the workers handling and growing the food, and it may be better for you. Choosing organic will also help drive up demand, eventually bringing down costs and increasing farming standards for all foods.

But, if you are on a stricter food budget, just choose strategically. Some produce is more likely to be contaminated with pesticides than others and some meat is more likely to come from cows treated with artificial growth hormones and antibiotics.

One thing that experts do seem to agree on: when it comes to fruits and vegetables, more is better–so when faced with the choice of eating conventional produce or eating no produce, eat the produce. The benefits of adding any fruits and vegetables to our diet still outweighs the risk of not eating them.

Money is Tight, but I’m Willing to Invest in Organic Where I can… What Should I Focus On?

To help you sort through all this information, here is some helpful advice on deciding what organic foods are worth spending your hard-earned dollars on.

Also, pregnant women and young children may be better off choosing organic when possible, since we still don’t know the amount of risk posed by exposure to factors such as pesticides and IGF-I.

Produce: Buy organic for the produce on the dirty dozen list; non-organic is okay for the others, especially those on the clean 15 list.

Regardless of whether you choose organic produce or not, be sure to wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly with water. This step alone can help remove pesticide residue, along with any dirt or bacteria.

Breads, cereals, and other packaged food: Conventional is probably fine, but if you feel passionately about advocating organic farming practices, choose organic when you can. Also read labels carefully to minimize added ingredients such as preservatives and food colorings that are often found in conventional foods. Likewise, just because a packaged food is organic doesn’t mean it’s healthier. For example, organic cookies are usually just as high in sugar and fat than non-organic cookies.

Dairy: Choose organic dairy products if your budget allows, especially for children and pregnant women. Organic milk reduces the worry about the unknown effects added growth hormones, but otherwise it’s known health advantages are minimal. Any grass-fed milk offers a more favorable omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, but make sure the milk is pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria.

Meat, Poultry & Eggs: If you support organic farming practices, choose organic meat, poultry, and eggs if your budget allows. Grass-fed beef may offer some nutritional advantages, but otherwise research does not yet show a significant nutritional difference between organic versus conventional. (Note: both conventional and organic eggs can be high in omega-3’s; it depends on the diet of the hen.) Buying from a local farmer is also a good way to know what is in your food and where it’s coming from.


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It's finally 2020. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few days into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Ashley Graham is a mama! 🎉

A new chapter is unfolding for model and podcaster Ashley Graham, who just announced she and her husband Justin Ervin have met their baby.

The baby arrived Saturday, according to a post made on Graham's Instagram Stories.

"At 6:00pm on Saturday our lives changed for the better," reads the Story. "Thank you for all your love and support during this incredible time."

Graham previously announced that she and Ervin were expecting a son. They initially announced the pregnancy on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to Ashley and Justin!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden just welcomed a baby girl! 🎉

Surprise! Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden are ringing in the New Year as first-time parents!

"Happy New Year from the Maddens!" reads a birth announcement posted to both Diaz and Madden's Instagram accounts. "We are so happy, blessed and grateful to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden. She has instantly captured our hearts and completed our family."

Raddix Madden is the first child for Diaz, 47, and Madden, 40.

The couple say they won't be posting any pictures of their daughter on social media as they "feel a strong instinct to protect our little one's privacy."

Congratulations to the Maddens! 🎉

Dylan Dreyer of 'Today' is a mom of 2! 

Today meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and her husband Brian Fichera, welcomed their second child, Oliver George Fichera, the first week of January 2020. Oliver joins his big brother Calvin to make the family a foursome.

Dreyer is still recovering from birth but her voice was on TV this week when she called into her show with an update on her new family. "I feel good," Dylan told her colleagues. "I just feel so happy and so blessed."

Caterina Scorsone of 'Grey's Anatomy' now has 3 girls!

Caterina Scorsone of Grey's Anatomy has so much to be thankful for in 2020: She's now a mom of three! The actress announced the birth of her daughter via Instagram, noting that her baby's name is Arwen.

Arwen joins big sisters Eliza, 7, and 3-year-old Paloma, who has Down syndrome. Speaking on The Motherly Podcast last year, Scorsone explained how Paloma's diagnosis made her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."

It is likely shifting again, as any mama who has gone from two kids to three knows.

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When it comes to taking care of the baby and the house, modern dads say they want to be equal partners.

But when Saturday arrives, research shows men are often relaxing while women are the ones doing unpaid housework with a “leisure time" discrepancy of more than 50 minutes a day on the weekends.

The study revealed that women were more likely than men to spend their weekends watching kids or performing housework.

So after a long week of watching kids or clocking hours on the job, what does mom do more of than dad? Work.

Claire M. Kamp Dush, Ph.D., an associate professor of human sciences at The Ohio State University, and lead author of the new study, says she is hopeful we can all find more balance. It's just going to take some hard discussions—and an understanding that there's more than one way to load a dishwasher or dress a baby.

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The study published in the journal Sex Roles saw Ohio State researchers tracking how 52 dual-income couples spent their time on a minute-by-minute basis as they welcomed their first child. The participating couples kept time diaries for workdays and non-workdays during the third trimester and for about three months after the baby's birth.

The researchers expected to see a lot of entries where mom and dad were doing childcare or housework together, but they didn't.

“Men actually increased their time doing leisure while she was doing work across the transition of parenthood," Kamp Dush shares. “It actually got worse once the baby was there."

According to Kamp Dush, there are a couple of factors behind this disappointing dynamic.

“One thing that's going on is women have a lot of societal pressure put on them to be perfect mothers. So if something is less than perfect with the baby or the house, the consequences are coming back on them," she explains, adding this pressure to have everything done to high standards may lead some moms to micromanage their partners.

If a dad is slacking, Kamp Dush suggests moms ascertain what his motivations are. Often, she says the solution may be as simple as empowering him to do things his own way. (Even if it isn't the outfit you would have picked for the baby...)

“It may also be the case that he just doesn't want to do it and he enjoys his leisure time," says Kamp Dush. If that's the case, she suggests calmly explaining the cost that his rest requires you pay. That may prompt him to do a bit more because, as Kamp Dush says, “He might also enjoy having a happier spouse and co-parent."

The earlier you can have these conversations, the better

Unaddressed resentment in relationships tends to build overtime, which is why it's essential to check in on how you (and your partner) are feeling early and often.

Kamp Dush suggests moms with heavy mental loads write down the tasks and duties they're dealing with. Then rip the list in half and hand it to dad. Couples can certainly negotiate the listed responsibilities, but the important thing is that they're not all on mom.

“Then, you're going to have to let it go," she explains. “Men know how to do these things. As women, we need to just let them do it."

Dads need to do 50 minutes more of unpaid work

The gender disparity in unpaid work hurts our careers, our families and our relationships, but it doesn't have to.

According to the Promundo's State of the World's Fathers' report, if men did 50 minutes of unpaid work a day we could close the gender gap.

"We need men to do our share. Fifty minutes more to relieve women of 50 minutes less would get us really close to equal," the president and CEO of Promundo, Gary Barker, tells Motherly.

When dads are more empowered and moms feel like their household responsibilities are more balanced, the whole family is going to be better off.

[A version of this post was first published July 29, 2018. It has been updated.]

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For new mamas back to sitting behind their desks at work some six weeks (or fewer) after their babies are born, the institutionalized parental leave policy in Denmark is the stuff of daydreams: Over in that Scandinavian paradise, parents are granted 52 weeks of paid leave to divide between them.

There's no denying this is much, much better than the state of parental leave in the United States, but it isn't quite as perfect as it seems from the outside. According to Denmark's Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, women take an average 93% of leave allotted to couples. And when they do return to work, mothers' wages suffer both in comparison to men and women without children.

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The good news is that it seems the solution to this gender income gap is something we—the mothers of today, even here in America—can do something about.

A new paper from the US National Bureau of Economic Research that examined Danish administration information from 1980 to 2013 found the motherhood penalty “creates a gender gap in earnings of around 20% in the long run," which is comparable to the gap in the United States.

What's more, the income discrepancy only increases for each child a family in Denmark has: If a woman has four children, her income is only $0.60 to every dollar a man makes—10 years down the road.

While this indicates paid parental leave alone may not be the panacea for the gender income gap, the researchers suggest that changing the way we think about roles in the workplaces and homes could help—at least when it comes to the next generation.

“As a possible explanation for the persistence of child penalties, we show that they are transmitted through generations, from parents to daughters (but not sons)," the researchers note, explaining that the more a daughter's mother worked while the girl was growing up, the less the daughter's income was affected when she became a mother.

“Women tend to adopt a balance of paid work and childcare that is correlated with the one they saw their mother strike when they were growing up," Henrik Kleven, a Princeton economist and the paper's lead author, tells Quartz At Work.

What this looks like in practice is splitting household responsibilities from the get-go and encouraging fathers to take more leave. (In Sweden, where fathers are penalized for not taking advantage of paternity leave, women's earning rose an average 7% for each month of leave that men took.)

According to the State of the World's Fathers' report, produced by Promundo (a non-profit organization dedicated to engaging men and boys in gender equality in partnership with Dove Men+Care) 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands want to take paternity leave, and yet less than 50% of fathers take as much time as their country's policy allows, and social norms, financial pressures and a lack of support from their managers are all factors.

The report also found that if fathers are able to do just under an hour of unpaid work per day, mothers can cut their unpaid labor time by the same amount.

"We need men to do our share. Fifty minutes more to relieve women of 50 minutes less would get us really close to equal," the president and CEO of Promundo, Gary Barker, told Motherly.

This may help shift us toward more income equality today—and, as the research shows, our daughters will really be able to reap the benefits.

[A version of this post was first published January 29, 2018. It has been updated.]

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There's no doubt: It's a new parenting era than 20 or 30 years ago.

Now faced with questions about how to limit screen time, when to give children phones and how to protect them from cyber threats, there are simply some issues that today's parents can't get advice on from our own parents.

Does that mean it's harder to be a parent today than when we were growing up? Yes, say 88% of young moms and dads.

According to a BPI Network survey of 2,000 parents in the United States and Canada, the leading reasons parenting feels harder than ever include: social media distractions, challenges with two working parents, emotional or behavioral dysfunction, peer competition or bullying, and violence and safety concerns in schools.

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Of course, most of us weren't fully aware of the challenges our parents faced when we were young—such as the fact they couldn't readily call on their own moms for advice lest they wanted to rack up major long-distance bills and couldn't have anything in the world delivered to their doorsteps within two days.

Regardless of whether it's true, the perception that parenting is harder than ever has contributed to some two-thirds of the respondents saying they've experienced "parental burnout."

"Parental burnout is a state of physical, mental and emotional exhaustion," says Neil D. Brown, LCSW, author of Ending The Parent-Teen Control Battle. "It leaves parents feeling chronically fatigued… and it can lead to depression, chronic anxiety and illness."

With 40% reporting parental burnout has "significantly" affected their qualities of life and another 49% saying it has "somewhat" affected their wellbeing, it's time employers take a vested interest in addressing the issue, says Dave Murray, Chief Strategy and Research Officer at the BPI Network.

"It is staggering to look at the incidence of [parental burnout] symptoms among working parents in America and understand the implications this has for added employee burden, cost, concern and downtime," Murray says, adding that counseling services to promote healthy parenting should "certainly" be among the benefits employers look to offer.

Many working parents are also hopeful that their employers will recognize the importance of practices that support healthy balance between work and life—with 78% of respondents to Motherly's 2018 State of Motherhood survey saying they believe it's possible to combine careers and motherhood. Of those who worked outside the home, the biggest changes they would like to see include subsidies for childcare or on-site childcare, paid maternity leave and more flexible schedules.

In our second annual State of Motherhood Survey in 2019 just over half (51%) of mothers said "I feel discouraged: it's extremely challenging managing trade-offs" associated with combining a career and motherhood.

The consequences of unaddressed parental burnout have an unfortunate way of spilling over to other members of the family. According to a recent study published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, a sample of 1,551 parents suggested "parental burnout has a statistically similar effect to job burnout on addictions and sleep problems, a stronger effect on couples' conflicts and partner estrangement mindset and a specific effect on child-related outcomes (neglect and violence) and escape and suicidal ideation."

While employers have a stake in addressing this issue, there's also a lot that individuals can do—like starting by cutting ourselves a break on self-imposed expectations. As research has shown, the more grace we give ourselves and others in the ways we parent, the less prone we ultimately are to burning out.

And while we've heard this all before, it's also worth remembering just how important it is to take time for ourselves. "We must have regular practices to refuel," LMHC Jasmin Terrany previously told Motherly. "We don't need to feel guilty about taking this time for ourselves—our kids will not only learn that self-care is essential, but when we are good, they will be good."

Then don't feel one ounce of guilt about using that time to call someone long-distance or place another Amazon Prime delivery so you can remember that parenting in this day and age does have its perks.

[A version of this post was originally published July 29, 2018. It has been updated.]

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