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If there’s one question that should teach you to stop googling for parenting advice, it’s “Can I drink while pregnant?”


Visit any of the big medical publications, and you’ll see the oft-repeated assertion that while a drink or two is “probably” fine, “no amount has been proven safe for baby.”

Visit any of the big-name baby sites, and you’ll likely find breathless articles about celebrities caught with a drink in hand while pregnant.

Visit a parenting forum and you’ll see scores of people excoriating posters for even asking the question, with just as many fervently asserting how mamas-to-be should just calm down and have a drink already.

This article will not add to this chaos by trying to convince you one way or the other about drinking while pregnant. Instead, it discusses how one pregnant economist upended conventional wisdom on the topic of drinking while pregnant, making us rethink the long-range consequences of relying on poor data.

A pregnant economist walks into a bar

In “Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong – and What You Really Need to Know”, Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University, analyzes the existing medical literature on many controversial pregnancy topics. She weaves her own pregnancy experiences with her data analysis to show readers how she applied the findings to her own life.

The result is an unusual and refreshing parenting book that presents evidence without advice. Parents-to-be are instructed to weigh that evidence themselves and use it to make their own thoughtful decisions.

The most controversial chapter in the book is certainly the one covering alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. About alcohol consumption during pregnancy, Oster concludes, “there is no good evidence that light drinking during pregnancy negatively impacts your baby,” and that expectant mothers “should be comfortable with up to one drink a day in the second and third trimesters” and “one to two drinks a week in the first trimester.”

Given the way alcohol is metabolized, Oster argues, the rate of consumption is as important as the frequency. Drink at a slow pace and most harmful bi-products of alcohol won’t make it to the baby.

To talk about the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, Oster asserts, we also have to talk about how alcohol consumption in pregnancy is studied. Given that the safety of alcohol consumption during pregnancy is a controversial topic, and because alcohol consumption in even moderate amounts is suspected to do harm, it would be unethical to randomly group women and have one group abstain from alcohol, while assigning other groups to one drink a day, two drinks a day, and so on.

Instead of randomized controlled trials, then, physicians and other researchers have had to rely on survey data to draw conclusions about alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Oster sifts through the available literature, choosing those studies that best controlled for confounding factors, and finds that alcohol consumed in small quantities has no negative consequences for children.

One of the criticisms of Oster’s work is that she cherry-picked data. But as an economist, Oster is especially well-suited to identifying how a study that initially seems well-constructed might be flawed. She looks, for example, at a paper published in Pediatrics in 2001, in which researchers concluded that light drinking during pregnancy impacts children’s future behavior.

Oster summarizes the authors’ conclusion: “When the authors compared women who didn’t drink during pregnancy to those who had one drink or less per day, they found more evidence of aggressive behavior (although not of other behavior problems) among the children of women who drank.”

That sounds like damning evidence for the danger of alcohol consumption during pregnancy. One drink a day and your child will be the school bully.

What’s missing from the researchers’ conclusions, Oster notes, is that nearly half of the study’s drinking mothers were also using cocaine, while only 18 percent of the non-drinking mothers were. Oster posits that perhaps it’s the difference in cocaine use that made the impact on childhood behavior.

Furthermore, the very fact that “only 18 percent” of the non-drinking group used cocaine suggests that the population in this study may not be representative of the population as a whole. Because cocaine sometimes correlates with other issues that may be considered risk factors for childhood development, it’s not possible to draw strong conclusions about drinking more broadly from this single study.

But she’s not even a doctor!

Given her bold assertions about alcohol consumption, let alone other pregnancy bogeymen, such as sushi and deli meat, it’s not surprising that Oster’s work received a lot of negative attention. It is surprising, however, that her book received so many one-star reviews on Amazon before its publication date.

Most of those reviews, which Amazon has since deleted, appeared to stem from NOFAS, a Fetal Alcohol Syndrome advocacy group, who advised its supporters to review the book. Many of those reviewers openly admitted they would never read the book, so their reviews were eventually deleted in accordance with Amazon’s review policies.

Mothers of children with confirmed Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) wrote the overwhelming majority of the negative reviews. There were two significant problems with their claims (aside, of course, from the fact they were reviewing a book they hadn’t read and never planned to read, based on what they thought Oster argued in one section of one chapter).

The first was the claim that Oster was telling women to go drink. As she makes quite clear in her introduction, Oster’s aim is not to instruct women how to act, but to provide them with the data they need to make strong risk calculations.

The second problematic claim – which has been even stickier than Oster’s claim about alcohol – is that she should not be dispensing medical advice because she is not a doctor. The problem with these critiques is that Oster is a doctor. Although she’s not a medical doctor, Oster holds a PhD, and it’s her PhD that makes her so good at sifting through the various studies published on maternal alcohol consumption.

One of the defining features of a PhD is thinking (it is a Doctorate of Philosophy, after all). It’s precisely Oster’s training to evaluate large data sets with lots of confounding variables that makes her ideally suited to looking at all of the available data on a medical topic and selecting only the best-performed research.

Before returning to the question of Oster’s qualifications, it’s worth pausing for a moment to consider how medical literature gets made. If you are a physician-researcher or scientist working at an academic institution, you’re generally expected to publish in your field, often multiple times each year. This is especially important for faculty members seeking tenure, as many institutions have a publication threshold for tenure review.

That’s where the phrase “publish or perish” comes from. It refers to the need to publish in order to keep your job. For researchers whose salaries are completely dependent on the grants they bring into their universities, publications earn and retain funding for their work.

The pressure to publish early and often does not mean that researchers will publish “bad” data. There are many checks in place to ensure that scientific papers are of reasonable quality. But a “true” finding is not necessarily a useful finding. The “Pediatrics” paper Oster references in her book is one good example. The data was bad, but, Oster argues, not significant to populations of pregnant women not abusing cocaine.

Why take the risk?

In response to the review-bombing she received on Amazon in the wake of her book release, Oster wrote a piece for Slate describing the criticisms she’d received and reiterating the purpose of her book: “The value of the data is not that it leads us all to the same choice, just that it introduces a concrete way to make that choice.”

The comments section of that article is, perhaps unsurprisingly, full of women criticizing other women’s lack of self-control. There are women quoting FAS statistics (some of which Oster refutes in her book). There are women arguing that Oster’s writing is irresponsible because people might misinterpret it and drink unsafe amounts. There are also women discussing grandmothers and great-grandmothers who drank during their pregnancies, only to have healthy, well-adjusted children.

All of these commenters have missed the point. Oster titled the piece “I Wrote That It’s OK to Drink While Pregnant. Everyone Freaked Out. Here’s Why I’m Right.” What makes Oster “right” is not that she weighed the data and found that alcohol consumption is likely unharmful to fetuses when consumed in small amounts.

She’s not “right” because she drank during her pregnancy, any more than her critics were “right” for not drinking during their pregnancies.

What makes Oster “right” – what makes her someone we should want to emulate – is that she approached the entirety of conventional pregnancy wisdom and asked “Why?”

Many of the milder criticisms of Oster’s book include a judgement posing as question: “Why take the risk?” Why not just avoid alcohol for nine months, and, just to be safe, during breastfeeding? Why not skip the deli sandwiches? Why not swap out sashimi for California rolls?

Setting up unreasonably high standards for mothers such that they have failed before they ever see their babies also carries risk. These mothers have failed because they painted the new nursery even though the fumes were considered dangerous. They have failed because they didn’t eat all the right foods during pregnancy. They failed because they changed the litter box.

The value of a few glasses of wine during a pregnancy is not that the mom-to-be gets to relax, or even that the she just enjoys the taste of wine – although these are nice side benefits. The true value rests in the type of analytical thinking she can then rely on throughout the early parenting years to combat the slew of messages telling her she’s doing it wrong.

There’s no reason to suspect that drinking while pregnant will actually make you a better parent, just as not drinking while pregnant won’t make you a better parent. But the type of thinking Oster exhibits in her book can make us better parents, who are less susceptible to the advice du jour, more confident in our choices, and less fearful of the world.

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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.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

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

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

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If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

Price: $12.99

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

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Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

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Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

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If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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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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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

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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