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It's science: Picture books are best for little brains

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In the era of handheld video and Audible subscriptions we have so many high tech things we can use to tell our kids stories.

There are so many options, and many parents are drawn to the convenience of tablet-based books, but researchers say old-fashioned picture books are still the best bet for little brains.

A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics found that parents and toddler interact and collaborate more when reading paper books than when reading e-books on a tablet. Researchers videotaped 37 parent-toddler pairs reading three types of books: Regular old print books, basic e-books and enhanced e-books with sound effects or animation. They found parents and tots "verbalized less" when reading together on a tablet, and recommend print to increase interactions.

This follows another study by researchers at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, that also found printed picture books to be better for preschoolers and parents.

The study's authors exposed 27 children between 3 and 5 years old to Canadian author Robert Munsch's classic stories in three different formats — as audio only, as a picture book with audio, and as an animated video — to find out what happens in their pre-kindergarten brains during these different kinds of story time.

"They had FMRI [functional magnetic resonance imaging scan, a way of measuring brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow] done where we presented them in the scanner about a five-minute story, strictly audio, followed by a rest and then a five-minute story that had illustrated pictures accompanying it, followed by a rest and then a fully animated story for five minutes," the study's lead author Dr. John Hutton, a pediatrician and clinical researcher at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital, told CBC's As It Happens.

According to Hutton, the results were right out of a kid's story. He calls it 'the Goldilocks effect.'

"In audio format, it seemed like the language network was having to work a little bit harder to keep up with the story and to really figure out what was going on, and there wasn't as much involvement of the visual networks," he explains. "The imagery network was definitely engaged but ... the way it looked was that the brain was having to work a little harder to figure out what was going on in the story."

According to Hutton, this is because preschool kids minds just don't have access to as many images because they haven't seen a lot of the world yet. When they hear something being described without seeing a picture of it, their little brains were busy trying to figure out what a word means. Hutton says, for this reason, audio only is "too cold" for little kids.

"In the illustrated version, which we described as just right, there was a really nice balanced integration of the visual networks and the default mode network and the language networks. They were off they all seemed to be cooperating a lot more," he says. "If you have a picture, that gives the child something to start with and then they bring their imagination into play and they could bring the story to life in their mind."

The animated cartoons, Hutton says, were "too hot," and the networks were disconnected. "In the animated format, it was like everything kind of came apart," he explains, noting that kids' brain networks develop gradually and in order to reinforce the connection they need practice. The video format is just too much at once.

"There were anywhere from about 20 to 82% decrease in the connections between the different brain networks, where really the visual network was doing its thing, [the] language network was doing its thing but they weren't really integrated."

He worries too much exposure to video stories might make kids less likely to like books when they move from picture books to chapters. "Possibly kids that have too much exposure to the animated content when they're young could underdevelop those networks and, as a consequence, not be as engaged during stories later on and they become somewhat addicted to just having the content fed to them."

The lesson for parents is that technology is great, but it can't replace the experience kids get sharing a picture book with mom or dad. Like Goldilocks says, that's just right.

[A version of this post was originally published May 31, 2018. It has been updated.]

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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Can pregnancy be contagious among friends? Science says yes, and so do some staff at a hospital in Maine where nine nurses from the Labor & Delivery Unit were all expecting at the same time, and now they are all mamas.

About 5 months ago, after one of the nurses posted a photo of 8 of the 9 mamas-to-be the sweet pic quickly went viral.

Soon local news stations picked up the story of the baby boom on the L&D unit at Maine Medical Center.



"It's really nice coming to work and seeing other people who are just as pregnant and watching their bellies pop and just talking about these experiences that we are going through together," one of the nurses, Amanda Spear, told WMTW.

"I feel like every other day we would come into work and it would be like, 'someone else is pregnant,'" Spear told NBC.

Another of the nurses, Erin Grenier, said that with every pregnancy announcement the staff got more and more excited for each other.

Nurse Brittney Verville couldn't believe the photo she posted to Facebook before resting up for the night shift got thousands of likes and shares. "When we woke up we're like, 'oh my gosh I think we're viral,'" she told NBC.

Now, the mamas are going viral again, as a picture of the babies is blowing up, even making it to CNN.

The youngest is 3 weeks old and the oldest is 3½ months. The mamas are already getting them together for playdates. The photographer who snapped the viral pic, Carly Murray, told CNN she hopes one say these kiddos understand how important the work their mamas do is.

Congrats to the nurse of the Maine Medical Center Labor and Delivery Unit! 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published March 26, 2019. It has been updated.]

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