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We asked Consumer Reports about the heavy metals in baby food—and they said not to panic

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This week many parents were left questioning the contents of their cupboards when new information from Consumer Reports sparked a flurry of headlines about heavy metals in packaged baby food.

Parents are understandably worried after learning cadmium, lead, and inorganic arsenic are present in those little jars and pouches, but the Chief Scientific Officer for Consumer Reports, James H Dickerson, tells Motherly the study was meant to inform citizens, not freak us out.

"Don't panic. The issue is a chronic exposure issue, not an acute exposure issue," he explains. "Chronic exposure means long-term exposure over months and years of repeated exposure. Acute exposure means a single time, or five times or 10 times of exposure, consuming these foods would lead to a risk. That's not the case at all."

The report

Consumer Reports tested 50 popular ready-made baby food products for heavy metals, and every product had measurable levels of cadmium, inorganic arsenic, or lead. According to Dickinson, what makes those test results worrisome is that 68% correspond to elevated levels of potential risk for cancer development, neurological problems or respiratory problems.

That doesn't mean that your child is going to get sick from eating a jar of baby food, but it does mean that, in some cases, (like with sweet potatoes or rice-based cereals and baby snacks) parents should serve the foods in moderation, and mix in other kind of grains, veggies and protiens as much as possible.

"Having a variety goes a long way to help mitigate this issue and ensure your children grow up happy, healthy and safe," he tells Motherly.

A call to action

Consumer Reports is calling on baby food manufacturers to take a long hard look at their supply chains when making food for growing babies and kids, in addition to stricter policies and controls to prevent contamination during the manufacturing process.

"If they are very vigilant about making sure the food they source already has very low levels of these heavy elements, that goes a long way to increasing the probability that the final product, the final food ends up having low levels," he explains, adding that Consumer Reports also has some ideas for the FDA.

"The first one is to set very clear goals for manufacturers to have absolutely no measurable levels of the heavy elements in any baby food, any toddler food at all. That's an ambitious goal, so to help manufacturers get to that goal, we'd like the FDA to set very clear benchmarks along that pathway to that goal and then enforce those benchmarks," Dickerson explains.

"Lastly, there are currently pending, agreed upon guidelines that the FDA is considering that we would like them to finalize by the end of 2018," he notes. Those guidelines would limit the amount of inorganic arsenic acceptable in infant cereal and fruit juices.

In a statement emailed to Motherly an FDA spokesperson explains: "Toxic elements are naturally occurring so it is not possible to remove or completely prevent arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury from entering the food supply, but our goal at FDA is to limit consumer exposure, especially in children, to the greatest extent feasible."

The FDA says it welcomes the data from Consumer Reports and "will review it in its entirety to further inform our efforts in reducing heavy metals in the food supply."

What we can do to reduce the risks

Manufacturers and regulatory bodies are aware of the issue of heavy metals in baby foods, and thanks to Consumer Reports, now a lot more parents are, too. While we can't control how fast changes come to the way baby food is made, we can control the menu at home.

"Our recommendation is for balance, balance, balance," says Dickerson. "What that means is that you should feed your children a balance of grains, a balance of fruits and vegetables, a balance of proteins."

In short, one serving of jarred sweet potatoes or a rice-based baby snack isn't going to increase your child's risk for cancer development, neurological problems or respiratory problems, but eating those things all the time could, so mix up the menu. It not only reduces your child's risk of exposure to heavy metals, but exposes them to new foods and textures, too.

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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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Meghan Markle is opening up about some of the challenges of pregnancy and life as a new mom. While most of us can't relate to her status as a royal we can totally relate to some of her feelings about motherhood.

Markle was recently interviewed by ITV News at Ten anchor Tom Bradby—and when Bradby asked her how she was doing she kept it real.

"Thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I'm OK, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes," Markle said.

ITV News on Instagram: “'Not many people have asked if I’m ok... it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.' Meghan reveals to ITV’s @tom.bradby…”

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Many moms can relate to this, and it's something we at Motherly have often commented on. People always ask how the baby is doing, but don't always think to ask mama how she is. Of course, we want the people around us to care how our babies are doing, but mom needs to be cared for, too.

Bradby pressed on, asking Markle if it would be fair to say she is " not really OK?"

"Yes," she replied.

The most famous new mom in the world is saying that she is not okay. We applaud her for that because by telling her truth she is no doubt inspiring other mothers to do the same. We don't have to pretend that motherhood is free from stress and struggle. It is hard, even for someone with the resources Markle has.

The Duchess of Sussex has a lot of financial resources, but she has also been highly scrutinized during her pregnancy and early motherhood, which has added to her stress.

"Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging," Markle says. "And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it's a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed. It's um… yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm okay, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."

Media coverage of Markle's pregnancy and personal life were a factor in Prince Harry releasing a statement on the matter earlier this month.

"My wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences—a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son," it reads, in part. "There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face—as so many of you can relate to—I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been."

As Prince Harry suggests, there are certain things about Markle's struggle that many of us can relate to. Pregnancy and life with a newborn are hard, and trying to pretend you're okay when you're not (or as Harry calls it, putting on a brave face) can make it even more stressful.

Here's to it being okay for a new mom to say she's not okay.

The rest of Bradby's interview with Markle (and conversations with Harry) will air during the upcoming ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, this Sunday in the UK. Stateside, the doc will air Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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News

Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it's initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of Johnson's Baby Powder due to low levels of asbestos contamination. In a statement posted to its website the company explained this is a "voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson's Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer."

The recall is only for one lot of 33,000 bottles of baby powder. If you have a bottle of Johnson's Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB stop using it and contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center at www.johnsonsbaby.com or by calling +1 (866) 565-2229.

Johnson & Johnson stresses that this recall is a precaution and that it can't yet confirm if the product tested was genuine or whether cross-contamination occurred. The voluntary recall comes after years of allegations about asbestos contamination in Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder-based baby powder.

As Bloomberg reported in July, the Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Johnson & Johnson due to concerns about alleged asbestos contamination in its baby powder. This came after numerous lawsuits, including a case that saw Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. In July 2018, St. Louis jury ruled the women were right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks. Way back in 1981, the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates. In 1998, Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the variety of baby powder involved in the The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission's investigations and the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks.

In a statement on its website, Johnson & Johnson states that "talc is accepted as safe for use in cosmetic and personal care products throughout the world."

When Motherly requested comment on the recall and the safety of talc a spokesperson for the company issued the following statement:

"[Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc] has a rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe and years of testing, including the FDA's own testing on prior occasions--and as recently as last month--found no asbestos. Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos."

Bottom line: If you have one of the 33,000 bottles of Johnson's Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB, stop using it.

If you are going to use baby powder other than the recalled lot on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

[A version of this post was originally published July 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Recent updates

News

Jason Momoa's daughter Lola was born just a little over 12 years ago, back when only hard-core sci-fi fans and the people who stumbled on Baywatch Hawaii while flipping channels knew who he was. Maybe that's why now is the first time we're hearing the hilarious story of how he came this close to missing her birth. Even all these years later, it's suspenseful to read.

He told this all to Esquire for his cover story, where he's promoting his upcoming Apple TV+ show See. The post-apocalyptic show is filming in Vancouver, the same place Momoa was living on that fateful summer day in 2007 when he was starring on Stargate Atlantis.

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"It was the hottest day, July 20," Momoa began his tale, setting the scene of how he had no air-conditioning in his apartment and was sleeping in the front room by the window. Meanwhile, his now-wife Lisa Bonet was back in California and her water broke early. She had been trying to reach him on the phone in the other room.

"I missed about 70 calls," he told Esquire. He woke up and freaked out.

Thanks to his Stargate producer (yay for bosses who support parents!), he quickly got the last seat on a plane home, all the way in the back. "And I tell the lady, 'Listen, I'm having a baby—make sure everyone sits down so I can get off the plane first.'"

We're not sure if the flight attendant actually warned the rest of the passengers that this 6-foot-4 man would be running through the plane when they landed, but we can very clearly imagine this scene.

"Benjamin Bratt was on the plane!" he recalled of the Law & Order star. "He was in first class... And he was like, 'Go, go, go.'"

Go he did. "So I come barreling out of the terminal, like the Predator, like, 'GET OUT OF THE WAY!'"

He gave his cab driver the run-all-the-lights-I'm-having-a-baby speech that happens in the movies and raced to Bonet's side.

At last, thanks to modern transportation—not a herd of Dothraki horses nor a giant Atlantean battle shark, unfortunately—Momoa made it to Bonet's side just two hours before Lola was born. He even got to spend some time in the tub with his laboring partner, who was probably pretty happy he made it in time.

For the whole family's sake, we hope the birth of son Nakoa-Wolf Manakauapo Namakaeha Momoa, a.k.a. Wolf, now 10, was slightly less dramatic.

This is a story that many couples can relate to. Unfortunately, our partners can't always be by our sides in the days leading up to birth. Sometimes they're on a business trip, sometimes they're deployed, and sometimes (like in Momoa's case) they're working a civilian job that takes them away from home.

This is why it is so important for bosses (again, applause for Momoa's producer) to understand that just because a woman's partner isn't carrying the baby doesn't mean they don't need to make room in their schedule for a birth.

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News

The internet is good for so many things. We use it to communicate with each other and to keep up with the news. But with so much information coming our way all day, every day, we're bound to miss some cool stuff. That's why we keep an eye on the internet each week, curating a list of viral hits that you may have missed but will definitely want to know about.

This week we've got everything from potty training tips to a heroic preschooler.

So grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

Video of teacher showing kids how to wipe butts goes viral 

We don't know exactly where this teacher teaches, but it's likely not a school in the United States. And that has people online suggesting that American parents and teacher pick up this genius method for teaching little ones how to clean their behinds after going to the bathroom.

In the video the teacher has taped a couple of balloons to the back of her chair and the backs of her students' tiny chairs. She shows the kids how to wipe between the balloons, teaching them a skill they can use on their own butt in the bathroom.

If your little one is having a hard time mastering this potty skill it may be time to buy some balloons, mama!

4-year-old goes viral after saving 2-year-old sister from drowning

As Today reports, Gray Forrester (who just turned 5) is a heroic big brother. This little guy saved his 2-year-old sister after she fell in the family pool, and their mom is telling the story not only to give props to Gray (who totally deserves them) but also to remind parents about pool safety.

The Forresters did a lot right. They had a pool fence installed and their kids knew they were not allowed to be in the pool without an adult. "We installed beeps on the doors. We thought we had taken all the precautions," mom Laura Forrester told told WBIR in Knoxville.

But little Andie got around the security measures when her mom wasn't looking and fell in the pool. Luckily, Gray was there. "He saved me," says the toddler.

According to Gray, his little sister was struggling to doggy paddle, so he "grabbed her tummy. I was trying to lift her so she could breathe."

Andie was not waving or yelling for her mom because she couldn't. As former Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mario Vittone writes, "drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect."

Gray lifted Andie out of the pool and their mom is so thankful and recommends all parents look into swimming lessons and double check their pool precautions.

Gray is a little hero and he's also really lucky. According to drowning investigator Natalie Livingston, kids have been known to pull one another down when one is drowning. Luckily, that didn't happen to Gray and Andie.

In an ideal world an adult would have been the one to save Andie, but her mama is happy Gray was there to do it.

This viral photo reminds us how hard labor + delivers nurses work 

Caty Nixon is a labor and delivery nurse and, as Today reports, she's also a viral sensation. The internet attention was very unexpected for Nixon. It came after her sister, Laura McIntyre posted a photo of Nixon snapped after the end of a grueling work week.

"[C]aty just wrapped up her fourth shift in a row. That's around 53+ hours in four days. That's not including the 1.5 hours she's in the car each day. She usually doesn't get a chance to eat lunch or even drink much water," her twin sister wrote.

"This pic is from a night back in July where she came to my house after a particularly hard day. She delivered a stillborn. Have you guys ever really thought about what a labor & delivery nurse sees? They see great joy in smooth deliveries & healthy moms & babies. They see panic & anxiety when a new mom is scared. They see fear when a stat C-section is called. They see peace when the mom has support from her family-[because] not all new moms do. They see teenagers giving birth. They see an addicted mom give birth to a baby who is withdrawing. They see CPS come. They see funeral homes come. Sid you know that they have to make arrangements for the funeral home to come pick up the baby? I didn't either," McIntyre wrote in her now viral Facebook post.

According to McIntyre, Nixon is "so good at what she does she often forgets how to take care of herself while she's taking care of her patients."

The photo she shared of her sister is a reminder to society that we need to take care of the nurses who take care of us.

Nurses like Nixon are so dedicated. "The good times are so good, and the bad times are heartbreaking," she told Today. "I'm here for all of it."

We're so glad her sister is there for her.

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