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New study challenges the CDC's stance on consuming your placenta

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It's a controversial practice many moms—including the Kardashian sisters—swear by that may soon become less contentious. New research indicates consuming placenta doesn't put a mother's baby at risk.


According to a joint study by the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Oregon State University published this month in the journal Birth, moms who ingest their placenta pass no harm to their infants.

The study comes on the heels of a report published last year in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, discouraging the practice of consuming placenta, known as placentophagy. That report details a case in which a newborn baby developed group B Streptococcus sepsis (GBS) after the mother ingested placenta capsules. While there was no definitive proof that the baby got sick because of the mother's placenta pills, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advised against placenta capsule ingestion in an abundance of caution.

"When the placenta passes after the baby through the birth canal, and it will also come in contact with these pathogens lingering in the recto-vaginal area. Eating that contaminated placental tissue could then further expose the woman and her baby to those invasive pathogens," the lead author of the report, infectious disease expert Dr. Genevieve Buser, told Motherly last year.

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The authors of the new study say their findings contrast the previous report and the CDC's stance. "Our findings were surprising given the recent guidelines recommending against placenta consumption, as well as the known risks of consuming uncooked or undercooked meat," said Daniel Benyshek, a professor of anthropology at UNLV and the study's lead author. "These new findings give us little reason to caution against human maternal placentophagy out of fear of health risks to the baby."

Benyshek's team reviewed about 23,000 birth records and found there was no increased risk of Neonatal Intensive Care Unit admissions, hospitalization or infant death in the first six weeks of life due to a mother's ingestion of placenta.

While the study did not examine the impact of placentophagy on postpartum mood disorders, the authors note that women who reported a history of anxiety or depression were more likely to consume their placentas, and that preventing postpartum depression was the most common reason women cited for choosing to consume their placenta.

"While there is currently no evidence to support the efficacy of placentophagy as treatment for mood disorders such as postpartum depression, our study suggests that if neonatal infection from maternal consumption of the placenta is possible, that it is exceedingly rare," said study co-author Melissa Cheyney, a licensed midwife, medical anthropologist and associate professor at Oregon State.

Professors Benyshek and Cheyney say there does appear to be a small, dose-specific impact on maternal hormones after a mom ingested placenta, but that more research is needed. A previous study by Benyshek and UNLV researcher Sharon M. Young found no evidence that placenta capsules boost postpartum mood better than a placebo, but Cheyney says the work being done gives researchers " a foundation from which to further explore the impact of placenta consumption on postpartum mood disorders."

It might also give mothers who choose to consume placenta some peace of mind. The CDC does not recommend the practice, but many mothers do swear by it. If it's something you're considering it's important to talk about it with your healthcare provider, and if you do choose to partake in placenta encapsulation, it's important to do your research on placenta encapsulation providers.

Jodi Selander is the founder of Placenta Benefits.info, and created encapsulation standards that are used by practitioners and researchers around the world, including at UNLV. She previously told Motherly she recommends the placenta be steamed before it is dehydrated and made into capsules, as this reduces bacterial presence.

Whatever you choose, loop in your doctor or midwife to make sure you have all the information you need.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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[Editor's note: This article describes one parent's experience with bed-sharing. To learn more about the American Academy of Pediatrics safe sleep recommendations please visit the AAP.]

Raise your hand if you've ever found yourself asleep with your child next to you in bed. (🙋🏽♀️)While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends room-sharing, they discourage bed-sharing, particularly in the first four months of a baby's life, due to safety concerns.

But the reality is that many parents fall asleep with their babies next to them in bed. Whether it's because your baby won't sleep without those cuddles, because you've drifted off while nursing, because you didn't have the heart to put a sick baby in their crib, or because your doctor has given you the okay to snooze alongside your babe, bed-sharing is very much a thing.

And Tia Mowry is getting real about her experience with it.

When asked about her most "non-traditional" parenting move, Tia shared that she's a big-time bed-sharer. "My 1-year-old [daughter, Cairo] is still in my bed," the actress said during an interview with PEOPLE. "Ever since she was born she was always in our bed." But this isn't her first experience with co-sleeping: Tia also shared that she slept with her son until he was 4 years old.

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Tia is hardly alone when it comes to sleeping with her kids. A 2016 study found that only about 44% of survey responders never slept with their babies in bed with them—and that those who slept with their babies were more likely to keep breastfeeding for the recommended six months. Fellow celeb Kourtney Kardashian is a co-sleeper, and many mamas find that while they didn't plan to co-sleep, it is what works for them. That's why there are even special co-sleeping beds big enough for parents and kids.

But as popular as co-sleeping is, it can still be seen as controversial. Even Tia's own mom isn't on board with the Sister Sister star's decision to bed-share with her kids. "[My mom is] like, 'You need to do the cry-out method. Put your baby in the crib. And I'm like, 'No!' I don't want my baby to have any sign of stress whatsoever," Tia explains.

Whichever side of the line you fall on, one thing is clear: Sometimes parents need to do things they never expected to do in the name of more sleep. When it comes to parenting, there's only one absolute: You have to do what keeps your family safe, healthy and happy. And while we'd urge all mamas to familiarize themselves with child safety guidelines, ultimately we all have to make the choices that are best for our families.

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Many new parents receive the confusing news that their newborn baby has a tongue-tie. It means the skin attaching their tongues to the bottom of their mouths is longer than normal. And while this condition can cause complications from infancy on, a new study shows that not all newborns need to get surgery to correct it.

The condition is known as ankyloglossia, which occurs in 4-10% of people, usually looks like nothing but an extra strip of skin under the tongue. But because that skin (called the lingual frenulum) acts like a taut rubber band restricting movement, babies with a tongue-tie often have difficulty forming a good latch to nurse. This can mean they don't get enough milk, so they have to nurse for longer. Meanwhile, they're causing their mother a whole lot of pain because their latch is shallower and mostly clamping down on the tip of the nipple.

I speak from experience here: When my son had a tongue-tie, it felt like I was feeding an angry piranha. He was definitely not getting enough to eat, and my milk supply was steadily decreasing.

But this new study published in JAMA Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery suggests that not all babies diagnosed with ankyloglossia need to undergo a frenotomy—a simple procedure in which a doctor snips the skin with a pair of surgical scissors.

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Infants don't usually need anesthesia, because this tissue doesn't have many nerve endings or blood vessels. Their mother is asked to breastfeed them immediately after the snip, to get the tongue moving properly and reduce the chance of the skin growing back. According to the Mayo Clinic, complications from frenotomies include bleeding, infection and damage to the tongue or salivary glands, but they are rare.

What's not rare is the number of patients getting frenotomies: Referrals for the procedure in the U.S. went up tenfold, from 1,200 in 1997 to 12,400 in 2012.

"We have seen the number of tongue-tie and upper lip tether release surgeries increase dramatically nationwide without any real strong evidence that shows they are effective for breastfeeding," study co-author Christopher J. Hartnick, MD MS, of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said in a press release.

The researchers looked at 115 infants (between 19-56 days old) who were referred for a frenotomy. Instead of sending them straight into surgery, the babies and their parents met with a pediatric speech-language pathologist for a feeding evaluation. These specialists observed the babies breastfeeding and gave parents feedback and tips to overcome any challenges they were experiencing. After this, 72 (62.6%) patients did not have the frenotomy after all, while 10 (8.7%) had a labial frenotomy (releasing extra tissue from the lips) and 32 (27.8%) had both a labial and lingual frenotomy.

"We don't have a crystal ball that can tell us which infants might benefit most from the surgeries, but this preliminary study provides concrete evidence that this pathway of a multidisciplinary feeding evaluation is helping prevent babies from getting this procedure," Hartnick said.

For now, parents' best bet is to consult more than one specialist to identify the best plan of action. In addition to lactation consultants, children with tongue-ties might need to see speech pathologists later. In some cases, the frenulum loosens over time. In others, they might wind up needing the procedure after all.

Anecdotally, I'll add that I visited with lactation consultants and my son's pediatrician more than once before deciding he should have a frenotomy. It was no fun for me (who wants a strange man sticking scissors in their baby's mouth?), but my kid was fine. It didn't solve all our problems, but feeding was much less painful immediately afterward.

The bottom line here seems to be that not everyone needs to rush into a procedure just because it's easy. Our kiddos deserve more than a one-size-fits-all approach to their health.

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For years, the standard in postpartum care has been to check in with moms six weeks after baby was born. That's a long time for a new mom to go without a chance to share her questions or concerns with a healthcare practitioner. It is also a significant amount of time for physical, emotional and mental struggles to fester—and with new studies illuminating the reasons behind the rising rates of maternal mortality in the United States (with half of the maternal deaths occurring in the postpartum period), it's time we make changes to better serve American mothers.

That starts with expanding maternal healthcare beyond the "arbitrary" six-week appointment, according to a a formal opinion on postpartum care from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published in 2018. "To optimize the health of women and infants, postpartum care should become an ongoing process, rather than a single encounter, with services and support tailored to each woman's individual needs," said the committee behind these new guidelines.

In the wide-spanning set of recommendations from ACOG, the committee calls for a first meeting between a new mother and her obstetric care provider three weeks postpartum rather than six. From that point, they recommend ongoing care as needed with a comprehensive visit no later than 12 weeks.

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Beyond a simple pelvic exam, ACOG recommends the comprehensive appointment should "include a full assessment of physical, social, and psychological well-being, including the following domains: mood and emotional well-being; infant care and feeding; sexuality, contraception, and birth spacing; sleep and fatigue; physical recovery from birth; chronic disease management; and health maintenance."

These new recommendations address not only the physical needs of mothers, but also the common barriers that many women face when scheduling their one and only postpartum visit: By the time baby is six weeks, many new mothers have gone back to work—resulting in as many of 40% of women skipping their postpartum visit entirely. However, trials have shown that outcomes improve when women get help and reminders in scheduling their appointments and are able to check in with their healthcare provider earlier.

"Rather than an arbitrary '6-week check,' the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that the timing of the comprehensive postpartum visit be individualized and woman centered," the committee writes. "To better meet the needs of women in the postpartum period, care would ideally include an initial assessment, either in person or by phone, within the first 3 weeks postpartum to address acute postpartum issues."

In line with more frequent and available appointments, ACOG calls for expanded insurance coverage for postpartum care. "Changes in the scope of postpartum care should be facilitated by reimbursement policies that support postpartum care as an ongoing process, rather than an isolated visit," ACOG notes, adding they advocate for 100% paid parental leave for "at least" the first six weeks postpartum.

If enforced as recommended, this is a significant step in the right direction. Currently, more than 700 American women die annually from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; 50,000 more suffer life-threatening complications. The outcomes are worst among black mothers, who die at a rate of three to four times that of white mothers. This makes the United States the most dangerous country in the industrialized world to give birth.

Says the ACOG committee, "Given the urgent need to reduce severe maternal morbidity and mortality, this Committee Opinion has been revised to reinforce the importance of the 'fourth trimester' and to propose a new paradigm for postpartum care."

We applaud ACOG for these new recommendations. Now let's see them in action.

[A version of this post was first published April 25, 2018. It has been updated].

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Last month Granger Smith and his wife, Amber, shared a story no parent would every want to. Their son, River, drowned at their home—and despite attempts to revive him—the little boy died tragically at just 3 years old. But River's parents managed to find some good in this absolutely devastating loss: They chose to donate their son's organs, saving two lives in the process.

River's mom, Amber, opened up about this choice in a heartbreaking Instagram post.

"I've always known I wanted to be a donor if anything were to ever happen to me," Amber writes alongside a photo of River. "Never in a million years did I think I would be making that decision for my baby."

Our hearts hurt so badly for this mama—but we're also amazed by her ability to find a way to turn her worst-case scenario into a lifesaving measure for other families.

Amber shares more about her family's gut-wrenching experience in the post, writing that doctors told Amber and Granger their son had no chance of brain recovery. As shocking as that was to hear, the parents knew they wanted to donate River's organs as there are so many people who need donations to survive.

That choice began a three-day process of determining which organs could be donated and which recipients would be appropriate. Amber shares excruciating details about the night before River's operation.

 River's organs saved two adults

"I spent the night laying in bed with him, crying and talking to him while they kept running tests and taking blood. The next morning family and staff lined the hall for the 'walk of honor.' We told them River liked to go fast, so to honor him, they pushed him down that hall faster than they had ever pushed anyone. Granger and I held each other and cried," Amber writes.

It's all so terribly tragic...but the outcome is bittersweet. Amber and Granger received a letter explaining that River's organs saved two adults, a 49-year-old woman and a 53-year-old man. Amber calls the decision to donate her precious son's organs the hardest and easiest of her life.

Our thoughts continue to be with River's family. We can't even imagine what they're going through, but their strength and grace in the face of all this is incredible—and we hope they'll always find comfort in the fact that little River left a beautiful, heroic, lifesaving legacy behind.

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