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Early last week, a headline from the United Kingdom caught my eye. And no, it wasn't Brexit-related. The headline read, in part, that “80% of parents overfeed their children."


Come again? My mind was slightly boggled. I mean, to the untrained eye it seems that my own children subsist off a steady diet of air and watermelon. How could I possibly overfeed my children when our mealtimes tend to go a little like this:

Me: Please have a few more bites.

Child: I'm all done.

Me: You haven't eaten anything. Please take another bite.

Child: I'm full. I ate at breakfast.

Me: . . .

And so on and so forth. From the stories of most of my mom-friends, we aren't alone in our struggle to get our kids to eat. It's sometimes hard to get anything at all into them. So it seems only natural that I am constantly badgering them for, “just one more bite."

Yet when I clicked on the article and researched a few more like it, I found that in reality I had no clue what an appropriately-sized meal looked like for a three-year-old. Portion control is such a simple concept! I couldn't believe it had never crossed my mind to think about it for my children when it's something I think about often for myself.

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And before the pitchforks come out, don't worry. I'm not talking about limiting what they eat. I'm just talking about starting with realistic portions on the plate. If they want seconds, by all means! But let's set the bar correctly and go from there.

A quick search on the Healthy Children website managed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and I discovered that the portions I was placing in front of my children were entirely unrealistic. It turns out, I'm one of the 80% of parents overfeeding their children. A healthy serving of grains for my 3-year-old is actually HALF a slice of bread or 1/4 cup cooked pasta. Seriously. So when I set a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in front of him, I'm actually giving him 4 entire servings of grain. And when he gobbles up two scrambled eggs for breakfast? He's actually eating twice his recommended daily protein in that one sitting. I was completely taken aback.

Maybe my kids were good eaters after all. Maybe I was the one who needed a reality check.

I know that we are, for the most part, healthy eaters around here. I make three meals a day for my kids, and I serve well-balanced, nutritious foods. We don't have separate “kid-meals." We buy a decent amount of organic meats and we get our vegetables from a local farm. I'm not trying to brag, I just mean to give a little context. I am a food-conscious parent, and I thought I was doing a great job. But in actuality I was missing some key components.

Could I do better? Absolutely! I just didn't know how.

According to the CDC, we are in the midst of a childhood obesity crisis. In the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled in children aged 6-11 and quadrupled in adolescents aged 12-19, resulting in more than one third of American youth being considered overweight or obese. Childhood obesity carries with it a number of immediate and longterm health effects including higher risk of cardiovascular disease, pre-diabetes, bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, some cancers, and adult obesity.

And though we are all aware that there's a genetic link to obesity, we don't need to despair just because we may be carrying around a few extra pounds ourselves. There's good news too. It's not completely out of our control and there are plenty of things that parents can do to help our children avoid obesity.

Here are seven research-backed ways parents can protect their children from becoming a part of the childhood obesity epidemic:

One

Maintain healthy folate levels during pregnancy.

You can start protecting your child from obesity before he's even born. While it's long been known that children born to women who are obese during pregnancy are more likely to become obese themselves, it's not been known exactly why this is.

But a 2016 study conducted at Boston Medical Center suggests that the link is not simply obesity, but specifically folate levels during pregnancy. The levels of folate during a mother's pregnancy were found to affect the child's metabolism after birth. Mothers who maintain optimal folate levels during pregnancy, regardless of their own weight, are less likely to have children who become obese.

Two

Make sure that young children get enough sleep.

When our kids are older, they are more capable of dictating their own sleep schedules. But for very young children, ages 0-4, they need the help of caregivers to make sure they're getting ample sleep at night. Many children need guidance even longer.

My own children have been known to turn into terrorizing derelicts when kept up too late at night, but I didn't realize that their lack of sleep could have adverse health effects as well. And I certainly didn't know that less sleep increases their chance of becoming obese or overweight later in life.

A 2010 study confirms that very young children, aged 0-4, who have shortened nighttime sleep duration are almost twice as likely to later become obese or overweight. Daytime sleep, or naps, were not found to affect this outcome. The theory here is that when we are tired, our body produces fewer leptin and more ghrelin hormones, the same hormones that regulate our hunger and appetite. By making sure they are well-rested, we set our kids up for a healthier metabolism.

Three

Practice smart portion control.

Until I began to research appropriate child-sized portions, I had no idea that the amount of food I was placing in front of my kids, and even encouraging them to eat, was not realistic. Even worse, it was putting them at risk. And I'm far from alone.

A study by the United Kingdom's Infant and Toddler Forum surveyed 1000 parents and found that 79% of them were routinely offering portions larger than the recommended size for their child. At the same time, 73% of parents worried that their children were not eating enough.

So why does portion size matter if our kids don't typically eat everything we place in front of them? Another study new in 2016 revealed that larger meal sizes put children at increased risk for childhood obesity. But don't fret. There are resources available to help.

The Infant and Toddler Forum created a visual guide to toddler portions and a similar chart is also available from the American Academy of Pediatrics. By placing smart portions in front of our children, we set them up to expect more realistic portions as they grow.

Four

Limit media exposure.

Though we're primarily talking about food and a healthy relationship with eating here, media and screen time are involved in the childhood obesity epidemic in two important ways.

First, media consumption tends to be a sedentary activity, meaning that when our children are partaking in screen time, they are missing out on physical activity. Recent studies found that increased screen time is linked with increased risk for childhood obesity.

And second, a new study out of McMaster University in Canada revealed that exposure to ads for junk food increased the amount of unhealthy food and beverage choices children made. Decreasing screen time decreases exposure to these ads. Practical advice linked with limiting screen time includes not having more than 2 TVs in a home, not having screens in a child's room and having consistent rules in place to limit screen time.

Five

Educate yourself and other primary caregivers about healthy eating and physical activity.

A 2012 study from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that over time, children whose parents had access to information and support regarding diet, health and physical activity were less likely to become obese and more likely to beat obesity if they were already afflicted. Central to the findings was the parents' role in identifying healthy measures and feeling empowered to make good choices.

Unsurprisingly, parents who are proactive and educated regarding obesity are less likely to have obese children. The American Psychological Association agrees, noting that “when parents stock the home with healthy foods and encourage outdoor exercise—and when peers and family members join in the healthy eating—overweight children are most likely to show sustained weight loss over time."

Six

Make family mealtime a positive experience.

Family meals together on their own are not enough to prevent obesity. If dinner together becomes a battleground over food or an upsetting mix of family dynamics, family meals are just another stressor. But family meals in a positive environment are associated with lower rates of childhood obesity.

Specifically, longer meals served around a table and away from the television were less likely to be associated with overweight families. Additionally, non-overweight families were more than twice as likely to allow children to serve themselves at mealtime.

Seven

Send your kids outside to play.

The CDC and the United Kingdom Health Education Authority both recommend that children and youth get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity. A statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents “should encourage children to play outside as much as possible."

But many parents may actually be afraid to do so. An article from the United Kingdom's Telegraph quotes child psychologist, Dr Richard Woolfson, as pointing out that although “energetic free-play outdoors used to be the typical activity in childhood, such opportunities are rare now, largely because of parental fears about their child's safety. Sadly, this has a restrictive effect on a child's development . . . [and] this reduction in physical movement during play almost certainly contributes to the increase in childhood obesity."

It's a sad day when attempting to protect our children from one danger exposes them to another, but for parents who fear free play outdoors, structured sports or play areas provide the necessary opportunities for physical activity.

Eight

Provide regular nutritious meals and limit stressors during adolescence, particularly for girls.

Another study new in July 2016 followed female adolescents who are of normal weight in their early teen years. This study found that when girls are exposed to food insecurity (i.e. uncertainty about whether regular meals will be available), in combination with harsh parenting styles as adolescents, they were more likely to become obese or overweight during their teen years.

Among the harsh parenting techniques under the microscope were hostile physical contact and angry or critical behavior. Though some parents may be unable to prevent food insecurity or personal stress levels, we can all be mindful of the way we let our own stress affect our children. Teens who were exposed to food insecurity without the addition of harsh parenting were less likely to become overweight than those who experienced food insecurity in combination with harsh parenting.

Though childhood obesity brings with it a number of disconcerting health issues and additional psycho-social concerns, it is reassuring to know that as parents, we are not helpless. Like many parents, I believed I was doing everything I could to foster my children's healthy relationship with food, but I wasn't aware of the current research that shows just how much more we can do to set our kids up for success. Providing well-rounded, nutritious meals is really just the tip of the iceberg.

Armed with knowledge and backed by science, parents of kids of any age can play a role in protecting them from the childhood obesity epidemic and making sure that they are on the path for success as they forge their own relationships with food.

For more about preventing childhood obesity, visit the American Heart Association or the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.

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Did you hear that? That was the sound of Nordstrom and Maisonette making all your kid's summer wardrobe dreams come true.

Nordstrom partnered with Maisonette to create the perfect in-store pop-up shop from May 24th-June 23rd, featuring some of our favorite baby and kids brands, like Pehr, Zestt Organics, Lali and more. (Trust us, these items are going to take your Instagram feed to the next level of cuteness. 😍) Items range from $15 to $200, so there's something for every budget.

Pop-In@Nordstrom x Maisonette

Maisonette has long been a go-to for some of the best children's products from around the world, whether it's tastefully designed outfits, adorable accessories, or handmade toys we actually don't mind seeing sprawled across the living room rug. Now their whimsical, colorful aesthetic will be available at Nordstrom.

The pop-in shops will be featured in nine Nordstrom locations: Costa Mesa, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Chicago, IL; Austin, TX; Dallas, TX; Bellevue, WA; Seattle, WA; Toronto, ON; and Vancouver, BC.

Don't live nearby? Don't stress! Mamas all across the U.S. and Canada will be able to access the pop-in merchandise online at nordstrom.com/pop

But don't delay―these heirloom-quality pieces will only be available at Nordstrom during the pop-in's run, and then they'll be over faster than your spring break vacation. Happy shopping! 🛍

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

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For decades, doctors have prescribed progesterone, one of the key hormones your body needs during pregnancy, to prevent a miscarriage. The hormone, produced by the ovaries, is necessary to prepare the body for implantation. As the pregnancy progresses, the placenta produces progesterone, which suppresses uterine contractions and early labor.

But a new study out of the UK finds that administering progesterone to women experiencing bleeding in their first trimester does not result in dramatically more successful births than a placebo. Yet, for a small group of mothers-to-be who had experienced "previous recurrent miscarriages," the numbers showed promise.

The study, conducted at Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is the largest of its kind, involving 4,153 pregnant women who were experiencing bleeding in those risky (and nerve-wracking) early weeks. The women were randomly split into two groups, with one group receiving 400 milligrams of progesterone via a vaginal suppository, and the other receiving a placebo of the same amount. Both groups were given the suppositories through their 16th week of pregnancy.

Of the group given progesterone, 75% went on to have a successful, full-term birth, compared to 72% for the placebo.

As the study notes, for most women, the administration of progesterone "did not result in a significantly higher incidence of live births than placebo." But for women who had experienced one or two previous miscarriages, the result was a 4% increase in the number of successful births. And for women who had experienced three or more recurrent miscarriages, the number jumped to a 15% increase.

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Dr. Arri Coomarasamy, Professor of Gynecology at the University of Birmingham and Director of Tommy's National Centre for Miscarriage Research, said the implications for that group are "huge." "Our finding that women who are at risk of a miscarriage because of current pregnancy bleeding and a history of a previous miscarriage could benefit from progesterone treatment has huge implications for practice," he said.

It's estimated that 1 in 5 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. And while even a spot of blood no doubt increases the fear in every expectant mother's mind, bleeding is actually a very common occurrence during pregnancy, Coomarasamy said. Still, first trimester bleeding is particularly risky, with a third of women who experience it going on to miscarry.

So for women who have been through it multiple times, Coomarasamy's findings are an important avenue to explore. "This treatment could save thousands of babies who may have otherwise been lost to a miscarriage," he added.

The study is among a number of recent groundbreaking discoveries made by doctors looking to further understand what causes miscarriages and what can be done to prevent them. While about 70% of miscarriages are attributed to chromosomal abnormalities, doctors recently learned that certain genetic abnormalities, which exist in a small group of parents-to-be, could be discovered by testing the mother and father, as well as the embryo.

Doctors have also discovered that even knowing the sex of your baby could predict the complications a mother may face, thus helping medical professionals to assist in keeping the pregnancy viable.

But while there is no sweeping solution to stop miscarriages, for some couples, the use of progesterone does offer a glimmer of hope. "The results from this study are important for parents who have experienced miscarriage," Jane Brewin, chief executive of Tommy's said. "They now have a robust and effective treatment option which will save many lives and prevent much heartache."

Brewin added that studies like this one are imperative to our understanding of how the creation of life, which remains both a miracle and a mystery, truly works. "It gives us confidence to believe that further research will yield more treatments and ultimately make many more miscarriages preventable," she said.

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It's never easy to give up a career and launch a whole new one, but when I decided to end my time as an opera singer and move into the field of sales, I knew I could do it. After all, I had the perfect role model: my mom.

When I was growing up, she worked as a dental hygienist, but when I started college, she took some courses in sales. She was single with two kids in college, which was a driving force to make more money. But above that, she truly had a passion for sales. In no time, she got jobs and excelled at them, ultimately earning her the title of Vendor Representative of the Year at her electronics company.

When I entered the field of sales, an unusual and unexpected twist followed. Several years into my career, I was hired by a different electronics company. My mom and I ended up selling similar products to some of the same businesses. (Neither of our companies realized this, and we have different last names.)

But rather than feeling uncomfortable, I saw this as a great opportunity. She and I were both committed to doing our best. More often than not, she beat me when we went after the same piece of business. But in the process, I learned so much from her. I was able to see how her work ethic, commitment and style drove her success. I had even more to emulate.

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Here are some of the biggest business lessons I learned from my working mom:

1. Use your existing skill set to differentiate yourself.

As a dental hygienist, my mom knew how to talk to people and make them feel comfortable. She had also served as a youth leader at three different churches where my dad preached. In each town, she found at-risk kids, brought them together and developed programs for them. She had learned how to help people improve themselves and make their lives better.

In sales, she did the same thing, focusing on how the products or services she was selling could genuinely make a difference in the lives of her customers. Those skills translated seamlessly into her new career.

2. Start strong from day one—don't wait for permission to launch your full potential.

From day one at a job, my mom showed up with energy and vigor to get going. She didn't take time to be tentative. Instead, she leaned into her tasks—the equivalent of blasting out of the gate in a race. Having seen how well this worked for her, I strive to do the same.

3. Have empathy, it's essential.

Many women have been falsely accused of being "too emotional" in business. However, empathy is a necessity and drives better results. As a businesswoman, my mom set herself apart by demonstrating genuine empathy for her clients and her colleagues. She loves getting to know people's stories. That understanding is a key component in her finalizing deals and helping her company reach higher levels of success.

4. Learn often—you're never done building your skill set.

My mom is the reason I spend at least three months out of each year getting a new certification or learning a new skill. She's always working to improve, harness new technologies or develop new competencies—and she's passed on that eagerness to learn to me. She knows that to stay on top, you have to keep learning.

5. Bring on the charm.

By nature, I'm analytical. I like to present the numbers to clients, showing the data to help sway their decisions. And that has its place, but charm is universal. Being someone people want to do business with makes a huge difference. If I had a nickel for every time a prospect told me, "I love your mother," I could retire now! Business, especially sales, is about the connections you make as much as the value you bring.

Our paths have taken our careers in different directions, but along the way, I've done my best to incorporate all these skills. Thank you, mom, for teaching me all this, and much more.

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Every mom has her own list of character traits each of she hopes to instill in her children, but there is one that stands out as a big priority for the majority of millennial mothers.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey revealed that kindness is incredibly important to today's moms. It is the number one trait we want to cultivate in our children, and according to stats from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this emphasis on kindness couldn't come at a better time.

In recent years kids and parents have been straying from kindness, but these Ivy League experts have some great ideas about how today's moms can get the next generation back on track so they can become the caring adults of tomorrow.

Between 2013 and 2014, as part of Harvard's Making Caring Common project, researchers surveyed 10,000 middle and high school students across the nation. They found that no matter what race, class or culture the kids identified with, the majority of the students surveyed valued their own personal success and happiness way more than that of others.

Why do kids value their own success so much more than things like caring and fairness? Well, apparently, mom and dad told them to.

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Eighty percent of the 10,000 students said their parents taught them that their own happiness and high achievement were more important than caring for others. (So much for sharing is caring.)

The folks at Harvard say that valuing your own ambition is obviously a good thing (in moderation) in today's competitive world, but prioritizing it so much more than ethical values like kindness, caring and fairness makes kids more likely to be cruel, disrespectful and dishonest.

So how do we fix this? Here's Harvard's four-step plan for raising kinder kids.

1. Help them practice being nice

Giving kids daily opportunities to practice caring and kind acts helps make ethical behavior second nature. They could help you with chores, help a friend with homework or work on a project to help homelessness.

All those tasks would help a child flex their empathy muscles. The key is to increase the challenges over time so your child can develop a stronger capacity for caregiving as they grow.

2. Help them see multiple perspectives

The researchers want kids to “zoom in" and listen closely to the people around them, but also see the bigger picture. “By zooming out and taking multiple perspectives, including the perspectives of those who are too often invisible (such as the new kid in class, someone who doesn't speak their language, or the school custodian), young people expand their circle of concern and become able to consider the justice of their communities and society," the study's authors' wrote.

3. Model kindness

Our kids are watching, so if we want them to be kinder, it's something we should try to cultivate in ourselves. The Harvard team suggests parents make an effort to widen our circles of concern and deepen our understanding of issues of fairness and justice.

4. Teach kids to cope with destructive feelings

According to the researchers, the ability to care about others can be overwhelmed by a kid's feelings of anger, shame, envy, or other negative feelings. They suggest we teach our kids teach that while all feelings are okay to feel, some ways of dealing with them are not helpful, or kind (for example, “Hitting your classmate might make you happy, but it won't make them happy and isn't very kind. Counting to 10 and talking about why you're mad is more productive than hitting.")

While the folks at Harvard are concerned that so many kids are being taught to value their own happiness above all, they were also encouraged by the students who do prioritize caring and kindness. One of the students surveyed wrote, “People should always put others before themselves and focus on contributing something to the world that will improve life for future generations."

If we follow the advice of Harvard researchers, the world will see more kids that think like that, and that's what future generations need.

[A version of this post was originally published November 8, 2017. It has been updated.]

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These days more women are having babies into their 40s, but the idea that women are facing down the biological clock is pretty pervasive—once you're over 35, you automatically receive that "advanced maternal age" classification, while your male partner's age may never even be mentioned. The pressure on older moms is unfair, because according to new research from Rutgers University, men may face age-related fertility decline too and America's dads are getting older.

It's a new idea, but this finding actually takes 40 years worth of research into account—which, coincidentally, is around the age male fertility may start to decline. According to Rutgers researchers, the medical community hasn't quite pinpointed the onset of advanced age, but it hovers somewhere between ages 35 and 45.

The study which appears in the journal Maturitas, finds that a father's age may not just affect his fertility, but also the health of his partner and offspring.

Based on previously conducted research, the team behind this study found evidence that men over 45 could put their partners at greater risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia. Babies born to older fathers also have an increased likelihood of premature birth, late stillbirth, low Apgar scores, low birthweight, newborn seizures and more. The risks appear to exist later in life, too: Research suggests children of older fathers have greater risk of childhood cancers, cognitive issues and autism.

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There's been plenty of studies surrounding advanced maternal age, but research on advanced paternal age is pretty slim—scientists don't quite understand how age correlates to these factors at this point. But researchers from Rutgers believe that age-related decline in testosterone and sperm quality degradation may be to blame. "Just as people lose muscle strength, flexibility and endurance with age, in men, sperm also tend to lose 'fitness' over the life cycle," Gloria Bachmann, director of the Women's Health Institute at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, explains in a release for this news.

As we've previously reported, more and more men are waiting until later in life to have children. According to a 2017 Stanford study, children born to fathers over 40 represent 9% of U.S. births, and the average age of first-time fathers has climbed by three-and-a-half years over the past four decades —so this research matters now more than ever, and it may represent the first step towards setting certain standards in place for men who choose to delay parenthood.

The biggest thing to come out of this research may be the need for more awareness surrounding advanced paternal age. This particular study's authors believe doctors should be starting to have conversations with their male patients, possibly even encouraging them to consider banking sperm if they're considering parenthood later in life.

Women certainly tend to be aware of the age-related risks to their fertility, and many regularly hear that they should freeze their eggs if they're not ready for motherhood. And while it's still too early to say whether we'll ever examine paternal age this closely, this research may set a whole new conversation in motion.

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