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It’s science: The mother-daughter bond is even more powerful than we thought

If your mom is still at the top of your speed-dial list, science explains the reason for that: mother-daughter relationships are the strongest of all parent-child bonds when it comes to the common ways their brains process emotion, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.


That’s because while the connections between mothers and sons, father and daughters or fathers and sons may be built on solid foundations of love, they aren’t always as strong in the empathy departments. Based on the findings, brain chemistry is responsible for that.

According to the 2016 study on 35 families, the part of the brain that regulates emotions is more similar between mothers and daughters than any other intergenerational pairing.

That means mom is more likely to understand where you’re coming from when faced with a problem because she could imagine herself in your shoes. (Or it could explain all the times you two have butt heads—the same sides of magnets repel each other, after all.)

The study also has potentially helpful implications when it comes to our understanding of mental health conditions. Lead author Fumiko Hoeft, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, explained that the examined corticolimbic system is strongly tied to depression.

That makes mothers’ mental health experiences good predictors for the daughters. And, considering there are good outcomes for preventative depression treatments, that knowledge of family history can be hugely helpful.

As the study was just the first to use intergenerational MRIs to compare brain structures, Hoeft hopes further research can explore the link with other mental health conditions in ways that could benefit all members of the family. In a press release, she said, “Anxiety, autism, addition, schizophrenia, dyslexia, you name it—brain patterns inherited from both mothers and fathers have an impact on just about all of them.”

Although the research base was small, other studies have explored the deep bond between mamas and daughters: One recent study found moms favor daughters (and dads favor sons) because of shared-experience bias.

Another study determined the connection between mothers and daughters remains stronger than other type of intergenerational family relationship throughout all the changes of life. Not surprisingly, more research has shown mothers and daughters influence each other—for better or worse—in different ways than other relationships.

Now we know that is both a matter of the heart and the brain.

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It's messy, it's fun, and it's a powerful way to teach kids a lesson that will serve them well this school year and all the way into adulthood.

Two years ago mom of two Amy Beth Gardner was preparing her oldest daughter Breonna, now 13, to start middle school the next day when she decided to create a memorable moment for Breonna that has since been replicated by parents all over the world.

"I gave her a tube of toothpaste and asked her to squirt it out onto a plate. When she finished, I calmly asked her to put all the toothpaste back in the tube," Gardner wrote in a Facebook post that has since been shared millions of times.

Of course, Breonna couldn't get the toothpaste back in the tube when her mother surprised her by asking her to. The visual, tactile lesson was her mother's metaphor for something else.

"Just like this toothpaste, once the words leave your mouth, you can't take them back," Gardner wrote.

It's been two years since Gardner posted her plate full of toothpaste to Facebook and went viral, and she's still hearing from fellow parents who are using the lesson to help teach their kids about kindness, sometimes years before middle school even. Gardner often hears from other parents who do the toothpaste ritual with kids much younger than her own and some have wondered why she didn't do it earlier. She says she absolutely would have incorporated this lesson into her daughters' earlier years if she'd had that chance.

"Breonna did not come to us until she was 9 years old," Gardner tells Motherly, explaining that Breonna and her younger sister, Bridgett, now 9 years old herself, first came to live with Gardner and her husband Paul in 2014. The couple fostered the girls for 509 days before adopting them.

Gardner says she's grieved for the experiences she missed with her daughters, like late newborn nights, first steps and the first day of Kindergarten. She doesn't have as many years to prepare her daughters for adulthood as most mothers do, so she's doing her best to make her lessons as impactful as possible. That's where the toothpaste came in.

Amy Beth Gardner with her daughters, Breonna and Bridgett

"We've been really playing catch up to what other parents have been doing, and so, approaching middle school that whole summer we had been having lots of conversations about this transitional time in her life, and it had really come to me that day when I was brushing my teeth that morning," she explains. "I'm sure plenty of people had thought of this before I did, but not I had personally never seen it done. It really just came up."

It came up, and she wrote about the experience on Facebook. Soon, friends were asking her to change the post from private to public so that they could share it. Not long after that, Gardner's post was everywhere. She says she can't even put a number on the amount of messages she's received about that post, but she's thrilled to be helping other parents pass on this important lesson in kindness.

"I think most people can remember a time in their lives when either someone treated them unkindly or, if we're going to be really honest with ourselves, we can all remember a time when we didn't show kindness. So it's a good message I think, no matter what stage of life you're in. I think that's why it resonates with such a wide variety of people," she tells Motherly.

Not the least of which is her own daughter.

"She didn't know where I was going with the toothpaste when I had her squirt it out. And so, I saw the message hit her. I saw it actually take root. She actually had mentioned to me before we were done that 'I think you should do this with me every year before I start school, in case I forget'."

It's fun, it's messy, and it's a back-to-school tradition that's totally worth copying.

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It's a girl for Chanel Iman!

Iman and her husband, New York Giants football player Sterling Shepard, welcomed their daughter into the world on August 10 and called her Cali Clay Shepard. "You were worth every push [and] every contraction," the proud mama captioned an Instagram photo of the happy family.

The popularity of the name Cali has declined since the name peaked in 2014, when it was ranked 201 on the Social Security Administration's list of the most popular baby names. It's since fallen to 288. (The alternative spelling made popular by a character on Grey's Anatomy, Callie, ranks higher, at 188, but also peaked in 2014).

The popularity of her name may be waning, but little Cali herself is already very popular online. She's four days old and her Instagram account already has 7,600 followers.

It makes sense that Cali is already active on Instagram (well, her parents are active on her account) as her mama announced her pregnancy on the platform back on Mother's Day.

Congrats to Iman and Shepard on baby Cali's arrival! We can't wait to see more beautiful baby pictures on Instagram. 🎉

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In many ways, having a baby in Alaska is much the same as in Alabama: All babies need food, love and care. And all parents are responsible for navigating the life transition. But the expense associated with welcoming a baby? That sure does vary widely based on where in the United States the baby is born.

After assessing 26 key metrics—including infant care costs, child care centers per capita, delivery charges and more—data analysts from WalletHub determined Vermont is the most ideal state to welcome a baby in 2018.

On the other end of the spectrum, parents in Mississippi were disadvantaged by the state's higher infant-mortality rates and lower distribution of midwives or OB-GYNs per capita. (Although folks in southern states generally saved the most on average infant-care costs.)

"If local authorities want to attract families in their area—and for a host of societal reasons, it would behoove them—they should continue to strive for greater public safety and more family-friendly environments," Jeff Wallace, a business advisor and assistant professor at Snow College, tells WalletHub.

To make the rankings as credible as possible, the experts at WalletHub divided the 26 measures into four categories: cost, health care, baby-friendliness and family-friendliness. Then each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing favorable conditions, such as low costs or better delivery outcomes.

While the list is focused on the best places to have a baby, experts who weighed in on the findings said there are much longer-term implications. "Children are more likely to be successful when they grow up in communities that feel safe, have families that are connected to each other, and offer support services if the family needs them," says Steven Meyers, Ph.D., Director of Undergraduate Psychology Programs and Initiative for Child and Family Studies at Roosevelt University. "Local authorities can establish these as priorities when they decide how to allocate resources."

Here are the 10 states we should look to for examples:

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As a pregnant mother, it's natural to want to get as much information as you can about anything you're going to put into your body while carrying your baby. Vaccines are one topic moms have a lot of questions about, and American Academy of Pediatrics just released a new study on the safety of the tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccination widely recommended for pregnant mothers.

The AAP's study found there is no association between a prenatal exposure to the Tdap vaccination and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

This vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for pregnant mothers as a means to protect babies against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and the AAP backs up the CDC in the new study, recommending the vaccine for pregnant women to protect infants, who are at highest risk for fatal pertussis infection.

Dr. Heather Sankey, an obstetrician and gynecologist practicing at Massachusetts's Baystate Medical Center, previously told Newsweek, the Tdap vaccine is important in pregnancy because it's the only way to protect newborns. "You can't vaccinate children until they are a year old," she says, explaining the baby receives a healthy immunity from the mother's vaccination.

The AAP's retroactive cohort study involved 82,000 children born between 2011 and 2014 at Kaiser Permanente Southern California hospitals.

"Among this cohort of infants the prevalence of ASD was 1.6%, which is comparable to the U.S. autism rates," Tracy A. Becerra-Culqui, one of the study's authors, explains in a video abstract posted by the AAP. "Our results show that the Tdap vaccine administered in pregnancy is not associated with an increased risk of ASD in infants."

"You can see the results are consistent across birth years and among those who were first born," she continues.

One of two recommended immunizations for pregnant people

The Tdap vaccine is one of two immunizations recommended during every pregnancy, along with the inactivated influenza vaccination, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

The ACOG recently released a new, straightforward set of pregnancy immunization guidelines to to clarify the rules around which immunizations expecting mothers should get and when, noting that "there is no evidence of adverse fetal effects from vaccinating pregnant women with inactivated virus, bacterial vaccines or toxoids, and a growing body of data demonstrate the safety of such use."

"Our goal was to increase vaccination rates among pregnant women and make it easier for providers to routinely prescribe them," Dr. Laura Riley, one of the guide's authors and chair of the ACOG immunization work group, told Newsweek.

Beyond Tdap and the flu shot, other vaccines may be recommended at the discretion of the woman's health care provider on the basis on the mother's age, previous immunizations, disease risk factors or chronic conditions.

The immunizations for measles-mumps-rubella and varicella (which are live vaccines) are not to be administered during pregnancy, but may be given postpartum even among breastfeeding mothers.


Why Tdap is recommended

The AAP notes that cases of pertussis have risen over the last decade, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of the babies infected with whooping cough must be treated in the hospital and there are fatalities every year.

The AAP says evidence has shown that when moms get the Tdap shot while pregnant, "antibodies are passed along to newborns and that the vaccine was 91.4 percent effective in providing some immunity until newborns reached 2 months of age."

Knowing that there is no association between a prenatal exposure to the Tdap vaccination and autism may mean more mothers get the shot, which could mean fewer newborns will be hospitalized.

[Update, August 14, 2018: This post was originally published July 9, 2018, but has been updated to reflect the American Academy of Pediatrics new study, "Prenatal Tetanus,Diphtheria, Acellular Pertussis Vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorder," published online Aug. 13 ]

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