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Chip Gaines shares an important Christmas lesson he taught his kids

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If you’ve ever seen an episode of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, you know the one thing Chip and Joanna Gaines value even more than shiplap is family.


In the latest issue of the Gaines’ quarterly lifestyle magazine, The Magnolia Journal, Chip revealed how he taught his kids an impulsive lesson about kindness and the meaning of Christmas, but almost missed a family dinner because of it.

Writing in his “Chip’s Corner” column, according to People, Gaines opened up about a Christmas some years back when he suddenly decided he wanted to teach the kids (Drake, now age 12, Ella, 11, Duke, 9, and Emmie Kay, 7) that giving Christmas gifts is better than getting them.

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“They were still young, but we’d been through enough Christmases as a family of six to know how quickly presents can get out of hand,” Gaines wrote.

With the help of his brother-in-law, Gaines took the kids shopping for presents other kids might like, then loaded the gang in the car seeking out homes that looked like they could use a surprise. It turned out to be harder to find such a house. According to Gaines, every house they drove by looked empty.

Meanwhile, the clock was ticking, as Jo was back home getting ready to serve dinner.

Finally, one of the kids spotted a house not far from the spot where the Magnolia Market complex now exists. “All of a sudden one of the kids yells from the back, ‘What about that house?’ and points to a few blocks ahead to this itty-bitty house up on a hill,” Gaines wrote.

According to the HGTV star, three moms and their kids lived in the house and were happy to see the visitors and the gifts they brought. Gaines was late to dinner, but he was also proud of his kids.

“When I think back to that night I marvel at their kindness, their generosity, and their ability to love those kids as if they were family,” he writes, noting that Joanna forgave him for being late when she heard the story and saw her children’s smiling faces. We’re sure she was shaking her head at Chip just like she does on their TV show.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Sometimes data tells you very important information you need to live your life. Sometimes it's just a curiosity. When it comes to the many analyses people have done on baby name popularity through the years, we're kind of on the fence. On the one hand, if you're trying to look for what to name your unborn child, it's useful to know just how many other kids in the playground are going to look up when you yell out, "Onyx, don't eat that!"

A new study just revealed the most popular gender-neutral baby name since 1910:

  • Casey has been the No.1 unisex name in the most states for the most years, popping in and out of popularity since the 1960s
  • Riley and Jessie follow close behind
  • In recent decades the most popular gender-neutral names also include: Jamie, Jackie, Taylor, Hayden, Finley and Charlie

This comes from the enterprising people at the online loan company NetCredit, who decided to have some data-visualization fun with baby name statistics, and the results are pretty cool to look at. Plus, they might reveal something surprising about parenting trends and gender norms.

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While gender-neutral names went up 88% from 1985 to 2015, choosing a gender-neutral baby name is not some millennial thing. They've been around for a long time.

What NetCredit did was look at the Social Security Administration's list of baby name popularity by state, and then found out the top gender-neutral baby names for every year since 1910.

Watch the animated results of NetCredit's project below:



NetCredit conducted one more little experiment with this information. They asked two sketch artists to come up with illustrations of Caseys, Rileys and Jessies. It turns out, no matter how neutral you think a name is, people will usually form ideas of a person's identity in their heads, based on other people they've met before, as well as famous and historical holders of those names.

This is what one of the sketch artists, Jon Allen, sees when he hears the name "Casey." He knew a couple of Caseys when he was growing up and that influenced his portrait.

It seems there are always going to be extra factors influencing how people perceive your child's name, but it goes the other way, too. Your child may have such an impact on someone that decades from now, when someone hears the name you picked, their mind's eye will show them the child you raised, not necessarily a particular gender. In 2019, names aren't defined as belonging to boys or girls, but rather by the individuals we give them to.

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Breast milk is incredible. We really don't need more studies to prove that breast milk has a ton of benefits for babies. We get it and we also get that breastfeeding isn't an option for everyone. But researchers are now looking further into the properties of human milk to figure out just how it works its magic because understanding what makes breastmilk great can help parents who feed their babies breastmilk, formula or both.

One recent study has identified a compound responsible for killing off bad bacteria, and their work might eventually help those who can't breastfeed their babies.

The study, published this month in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that human milk contains 3,000 micrograms per milliliter of a compound called glycerol monolaurate (GML). Cow's milk contains only 150 micrograms per milliliter of the stuff, and infant formula has none. Researchers from National Jewish Health and the University of Iowa then tested human milk, cow's milk and formula to see their effect on the growth of certain bacteria.

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Compared to the other two milks, human milk was much better at stopping the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Clostridium perfringens, and Escherichia coli—all of which can cause nasty infections and G.I. illnesses. (GML alone isn't very effective against Escherichia coli, a.k.a. E. coli, but the scientists believe it works in conjunction with other compounds in breastmilk to kill that bacteria.)

When the scientists then removed GML from the breastmilk, it stopped battling the harmful bacteria. And when they added GML to cow's milk, it successfully stopped the growth of Staphylococcus aureus. They also found that GML has anti-inflammatory properties, which is helpful in protecting babies' intestines and may be why breast milk is an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis.

"We think GML holds great promise as a potential additive to cows' milk and infant formula that could promote the health of babies around the world," Patrick Schlievert, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa and the paper's first author, said in a press release.

So while GML is one more reason breastfeeding is awesome, this research is also getting us a step closer to helping the many children for whom that is not an option.

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This week an investigation by Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF) made headlines, proclaiming 95% of baby foods the group tested contain at least one toxic chemical, including lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium. The results are similar to those The Clean Label Project released in 2017.

These reports suggest many commonly consumed products, including formula, baby food in jars and pouches, and snacks contain contaminants like arsenic and lead, in some cases at levels higher than trace amounts.

These reports were not published in peer-reviewed journals, but the items were tested and reviewed by third-party laboratories. The products were screened for heavy metals and other contaminants, and, in many cases, tested positive for things no parent wants to see in their baby's food.

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It's important to note that all of us are consuming arsenic in some form. According to the FDA, it's naturally found in soil and water and absorbed by plants, so many foods, including grains (especially rice) and fruits and vegetables contain arsenic.

Everyone is exposed to little bits of arsenic, but long-term exposure to high levels is associated with higher rates of some cancers and heart disease. Previous studies have shown that babies who consume infant formulas and rice products already tend to have higher than average levels of arsenic metabolites in their urine (due in part to the natural levels of arsenic found in rice), so additional arsenic in baby goods is certainly not ideal.

“To reduce the amount of arsenic exposure, it is important all children eat a varied diet, including a variety of infant cereals," says Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). “The AAP encourages parents to speak with their pediatrician about their children's nutrition. Pediatricians can work with parents to ensure they make good choices and informed decisions about their child's diet."

According to the World Health Organization, arsenic exposure is associated with an array of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

Arsenic was not the only chemical found in the tested products that could potentially pose a danger to the babies consuming them. The new report from HBBF looked at 168 baby foods from 61 brands and found 94% of the products contained lead, 75% contained cadmium and 32% contained mercury.

This is not the first time lead (which can damage a child's brain and nervous system, impact growth and development and cause learning, hearing, speech and behavior problems) has been found in baby food. A previous report released in 2017 by another group, the Environmental Defense Fund, found 20% of 2,164 baby foods tested contained lead.

As the FDA notes, lead is in food because it is in the environment. "It is important for consumers to understand that some contaminants, such as heavy metals like lead or arsenic, are in the environment and cannot simply be removed from food," says Peter Cassell, an FDA spokesperson.

Cassell says the FDA doesn't comment on specific studies but does evaluate them while working to ensure consumer exposure to contaminants is limited to the greatest extent feasible. “Through the Total Diet Study, the FDA tests for approximately 800 contaminants and nutrients in the diet of the average U.S. consumer," Cassel explains.

The FDA works with the food manufacturing industry to limit contaminants as much as possible, especially in foods meant for kids. “We determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to take enforcement action when we find foods that would be considered contaminated," Cassell adds.

The people at HBBF are calling on the FDA "to use their authority more effectively, and much more quickly, to reduce toxic heavy metals in baby foods," says HBBF research director and study author Jane Houlihan.

HBBF is circulating a petition urging the FDA to take action "by setting health-based limits that include the protection of babies' brain development."

Parents who are concerned about heavy metals in baby foods should also consider speaking with their pediatrician.

"Pediatricians can help parents understand this issue and use AAP guidance to build a healthy diet for children and limit exposure to lead from different sources," says Stephen R. Daniels, M.D., Ph.D., FAAP, chair of the AAP Committee on Nutrition.

[A version of this post was originally published on October 26, 2017. It has been updated.]

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We've come a long way when it comes to talking about maternal mental health. These days celebrities speak openly about their experiences with perinatal mood disorders and many regular mothers share their experiences on social media. In 2019 it's okay to say "this is hard and I need help," but what actually happens when we ask for help varies and, in some instances, is downright unacceptable.

Recently an Alabama mom to a 2-year-old and a 2-month-old—we'll call her Beth to protect her privacy—showed up at her obstetrician's office seeking treatment for depression and unwelcome thoughts. But Beth didn't get the help she expected. Instead, her children were removed from the home she shares with her husband and were placed in the care of a relative.

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What Beth experienced here is not uncommon and evidence that more work needs to be done to support mothers with their mental health.

Research indicates that maternal descriptions of violent, intrusive thoughts can result in children being taken out of a parent's care when that is not necessary. But research also indicates that such thoughts are common. A study published in the journal BCM Psychiatry this year found "unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harm-related to the infant are reported by the vast majority of new mothers, with half of all new mothers reporting unwanted, intrusive thoughts of harming their infant on purpose." But preliminary evidence suggests that these thoughts are not associated with an increased risk of harm to infants.

Beth's case is similar to one out of California last year and highlights how much work needs to be done to ensure that when vulnerable mothers seek treatment the systems and people receiving them are able to help them in a way that doesn't feel like punishment.

Beth is now bravely speaking out about what happened to her. In an exclusive interview with Motherly, she explains how she went to her OB's office (with her exclusively breastfed infant in tow) to seek help for a feeling she thought was postpartum depression. She says she described her feelings to a nurse at the OB's office, including a fleeting, intrusive thought she'd had about ending her life and her baby's. She tells Motherly it was not a thought she would act on—that the thought of harming her baby repulsed her—but the fact that such an image would pop into her mind concerned her a great deal.

When the doctor came into the exam room about an hour later Beth told her story a second time, telling her OB: "I feel hopeless and I'm crying a lot, and I had this fleeting thought of hurting myself and my child," she says. According to Beth, the doctor then left the room and returned with a plan for Beth to go to a nearby Emergency Room. Beth says she was told she could keep her baby with her, would be evaluated and sent home that evening with medication.

But things did not go as she expected once she arrived at the ER. While she was waiting to be seen by a doctor she called her mother, who suggested she leave the hospital, but Beth says nursing staff encouraged her to stay. Hours later Beth was admitted to the women and children's hospital where she'd given birth just weeks earlier. There, Beth was evaluated by a psychiatrist. Shortly afterward, her husband (who had been at work) arrived. It was now after 5 p.m. and the couple was growing concerned.

With her husband and her mother-in-law now by her side, Beth decided to sign out, advising staff she wanted to seek outpatient treatment. Hospital staff tried to convince her to stay, but she decided to leave with her husband. As they left the building a security guard followed them, telling them Beth was now on a "psych hold."

As Beth tells it, while the couple was getting into their cars (they had arrived separately) the hospital issued a Code Adam (a code for a missing child or baby) for her infant daughter, but Beth was able to simply pay $14 to leave the parking structure with no issues. The couple didn't go home, but rather to pick up their 2-year-old and head to Beth's mother-in-law's house. When a neighbor called and asked Beth why there were several police cars in front of her house she realized how serious the situation had become.

Beth's mother-in-law went to speak with the police and called Beth to bring her daughters to meet police and social workers from the Alabama Department of Human Resources. Beth was not allowed to spend the night with her children and was told to be in court the next morning.

In court, Beth was told she was a danger to her children, and they were placed in the care of a cousin. "My husband, since he was helping me leave the hospital, he's not allowed to have custody of the kids. They can't come to our house. I have to be supervised with the children at all times. I can't spend the night with them. It's just a big mess," Beth tells Motherly.

The Department of Human Resources responded to Motherly's request for comment on this case with the following statement: "All information regarding child welfare investigations is confidential under state law".

Joy Burkhard is the founder and executive director of 2020Mom.org, a national organization dedicated to closing "gaps in maternal mental health care through education, advocacy, and collaboration." She says Beth's case illustrates how much nuance and support is missing from maternal health care right now.

"Our health care system is completely failing so many mothers, like Beth, who speak up because they want to get treatment. By taking a mother's babies away, the system has failed not once but twice," she explains.

Burkhard is concerned that doctors still confuse symptoms of postpartum depression (including intrusive thoughts) with the more serious postpartum psychosis, which does increase a mother's risk of harming her children. She says that while awareness of maternal mental health disorders like postpartum depression has increased in recent years, "most doctors still aren't adequately trained in the nuances of these disorders and nuances matter."

Back in Alabama, Beth believes the nuance was lost in her case and insists she would not have acted on the thoughts that entered her mind and was not a danger to her child. "That's not me. I know I would never do that. I just wanted help to control the thoughts," she explains.

Her case highlights some serious issues with how mothers seeking mental health help are treated, but her experience should not discourage mothers from seeking help when they need it.

"If you are experiencing intrusive thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, the number one thing is safety. If anyone is in immediate danger, call 911," says Diana Spalding, Midwife and Motherly's Digital Education Editor.

Spalding continues: "If you know that you need help but danger is not imminent, try to find a professional that specializes in postpartum mood disorders. They'll understand the nuances of what you are experiencing. If this type of help does not exist, or you find yourself in the ER, ask for an interdisciplinary approach between an ER Doctor, an OB or midwife, and a psychiatrist. Together they may be able to provide a more holistic view of what you're going through."

Meanwhile, Beth is hoping no one has to go through what she is going through. She and her husband and doing everything they can to get their children back home. Beth is seeing a psychiatrist, a psychologist and a counselor and she and her husband are attending parenting classes five days a week. She says the deadline given to her by DHR was December 23, and that she will have met all the department's requirements long before then. She is hoping to be sleeping under the same roof as her children by Christmas.

2020mom is now circulating a petition addressed to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, noting that it is "critical doctors, nurses, child protective services and judges receive training in the range of disorders and symptoms so they know when a mother is at risk of harming herself and/or her baby (with postpartum psychosis), and when she is not (with postpartum intrusive thoughts/anxiety)." More than 2,000 people have signed the petition.

If you are struggling with your mental health right now check out these resources to find the help you need, mama.

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