Entries in Motherhood (12)


Fighting the 'Mom-Shell' Image: New Moms Struggle to Embrace Post-Baby Body

Beyonce performing in Atlantic City, a little less than 4 months after giving birth. Kevin Mazur/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- There is a new breed of mother on the playground.

Just weeks after giving birth, women dubbed "mom-shells," a hybrid of mommies and bombshells, are flaunting their post-baby bodies with skinny jeans and six-inch heels -- an image perpetuated by Hollywood. From Gwyneth Paltrow to Beyonce, celebrity moms have posed in glossy body-after-baby spreads.

Janice Min, the former editor of Us Weekly, says she helped create a celebrity culture of baby bumps with those spreads. Now, she says, those picture-perfect women have "infected our minds" so that "real" moms think they too have to look bodacious after childbirth.

"This crazy shift happened where suddenly it was cool to be pregnant and show off your body after you have the baby," she said. "That was a way for all these actresses to suddenly communicate to the world, 'I'm sexy, I'm still employable, and you want to be like me.'"

But not everyone can look like Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen shortly after childbirth.

"Gisele is a freak of nature," Min said. "These celebrities, a lot of them are just genetic aberrations."

Now there is a populist backlash. Alison Tate, a stay-at-home mom, had just given birth to her fourth child when she did something many women do every day: She resisted having a picture taken with her son at a birthday party because she said she knew she wouldn't like the way she looked.

"After I've had all my children, I felt like I had blown up like a balloon," she said. "It wasn't even a normal kind of being overweight. It's a deflated tire kind of being overweight. You can't fit into normal clothes right away. I felt dumpy, doubt-y, frustrated."

Tate had many reasons to be confident. She had an Ivy League education, she was happily married with four beautiful kids, but she still felt embarrassed by her body after giving birth. So she wrote a blog about the picture experience, and suddenly that moment became a movement.

Tate's website, "Mom Stays in the Picture," started a viral rallying cry and thousands of women submitted their own pictures, even if they didn't look their best.

"You're not looking at whether the mom is overweight, or did her hair, or did her makeup," Tate said. "All you see are moms and their kids, and all the love that are in those photos."

Tate said being a mom-shell is not what motherhood is all about.

"Our kids do not care what we look like," she said. "They only see their mother, and I just think that what women need to do is remember that. You don't ruin their pictures, you complete them."

Perhaps surprisingly, Janice Min can empathize. She too gave birth six months ago, to her third child, and said she also struggled when she saw herself in the mirror.

"It's sort of horrifying," she said. "Afterwards when the bump is gone, you're just kind of a fat lady, and it's really harsh."

Min's self-doubt helped inspire her to write a book called How to Look Hot in a Minivan, to reassure "real" moms that even starlets have a hard time living up to the Hollywood standard.

"We would have quotes from women saying, 'I cried, I work out so hard that I cry,' or, you know, 'I don't eat, I'm always hungry,' you know, crazy things that celebrities do," she said. "That at least puts a reality check on it. But Hollywood is fantasy and we have a hard time, at least when it comes to this area, of separating fantasy from reality because it's so personal for so many women."

In her book, Min shares what she learned about how the celebrities do it. Many famous women will wear a statement necklace, for instance, to draw the eye away from their figures.

"Motherhood and weight are the two most loaded issues for women ever," she said. "And so when you put those two together, it's like moths to the light, but it's also like kerosene to the fire, and women get really obsessed."

When Jessica Simpson battled with weight gain after having her daughter Maxwell, she turned to celebrity fitness trainer Harley Pasternak, who first helped Simpson fit into her Daisy Dukes. In fact, getting her body back has turned into a sponsored event, with her every move watched by her 5.7 million Twitter followers.

But Pasternak said the key to losing the baby weight for any new mom is lots of walking, not a personal trainer. He said women should not feel bad about not bouncing back to their pre-baby figures.

"I've never weighed a client," he said. "I would be upset at someone for not taking care of their health, because as a mom you're setting an example for your child."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


1 in 5 White Women Have Smoked While Pregnant

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- One in five white women have smoked cigarettes while pregnant, according to a new government study released Thursday.

The report, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, showed that 21.8 percent of pregnant white women ages 15 to 44 had smoked a cigarette within 30 days of when the survey was conducted.

Those numbers contrasted with 14.2 percent of black women and 6.5 percent of Hispanic women of the same age.

“When pregnant women use alcohol, tobacco, or illicit substances they are risking health problems for themselves and poor birth outcomes for their babies,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde said in a statement. “Pregnant women of different races and ethnicities may have diverse patterns of substance abuse. It is essential that we use the findings from this report to develop better ways of getting this key message out to every segment of our community so that no woman or child is endangered by substance use and abuse.”

The rate of alcohol use during pregnancy among black and white women was about the same: 12.8 percent and 12.2 percent respectively. Only about 7.4 percent of Hispanic women reported drinking alcohol while pregnant.

Black pregnant women were more likely to use illegal drugs than white and Hispanic pregnant women: about 7.7 percent of blacks, 4.4 percent of whites and 3.1 percent of Hispanics reported using drugs at least once in 30 days prior to the survey.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


“Time” Cover Shows 3-Year-Old Breast-Feeding

TIME(NEW YORK) -- Should a mom continue nursing her child even after he’s too big to be held in her arms? For mothers who practice what’s known as “attachment parenting,” the answer is an emphatic “yes” — and some are more than happy to demonstrate.

This week’s cover of Time Magazine shows Los Angeles mother Jamie Lynne Grumet nursing her 3-year-old son, who reaches her breast with the help of a step stool.

“When you think of breast-feeding, you think of mothers holding their children, which was impossible with some of these older kids,” photographer Martin Schoeller said in a Time Magazine online story explaining the cover photo. “I liked the idea of having the kids standing up to underline the point that this was an uncommon situation.”

The cover story illustrated by the photo takes a look at the philosophy of attachment parenting today — which, in addition to extended breastfeeding, also promotes co-sleeping and using slings to “wear” infants — and its roots in the 1992 parenting guide, The Baby Book by Dr. Bill and Martha Sears.

ABC News Nightline correspondent Juju Chang recently interviewed sitcom star Mayim Bialik about her practice of attachment parenting. Watch and read about the interview here.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Best Place to Be a Mom: Where Does the US Rank?

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Just in time for Mother’s Day, Save the Children has released its 13th annual State of World’s Mothers report. The report, which ranks countries from best to worst in places to be a mother, saw the United States placing 25th, moving up from last year’s ranking of 31.

Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children, said there’s still much work to be done. “We still fall below most wealthy nations,” she said on the Save the Children website. “A woman in the U.S. is more than seven times as likely to die of a pregnancy-related cause in her lifetime than a woman in Italy or Ireland. When it comes to the number of children enrolled in preschools or the political status of women, the United States also places in the bottom 10 countries of the developed world.”

Norway came in No. 1 on the list, which, according to the Save the Children, weighs such factors as a mother’s health, education and economic status, as well as such critical child wellness indicators such as health and nutrition.  Niger came in last, largely because of the food crisis facing the nation. It replaced Afghanistan, which held the bottom spot for the past two years.

Save the Children found that encouraging mothers to breastfeed could save 1 million children’s lives a year. The report also found that less than 40 percent of all infants in developing countries received the full benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Zooey Deschanel Among Women Putting Motherhood on Hold

Kevin Winter/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Zooey Deschanel says she has no plans to become a mother. The New Girl star told Marie Claire in a recent interview that children are simply not her priority right now.

“That’s never been my focus,” Deschanel told the magazine. “My sister was always very motherly, babysitting and stuff. I like kids, and I like being around kids, but it was never an ambition, something, like, I need....I like working. That’s what I like doing. I like to work.”

Deschanel filed for divorce from her husband, Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard, in January. Deschanel and Gibbard were married for a little more than three years, and Deschanel said that, along with babies, dating is not a priority either right now.

“Honestly, I am just going through a divorce, so I don’t really think that’s something I want to get into now,” she said about boyfriends and dating. “I don’t have time to date. I literally -- don’t have time.”

The career-versus-stay-at-home mom has been studied and debated at length.  Deschanel is one of the many women who have made plans to hold off having children.

“Not everyone enjoys childrearing or feels incomplete without children in their lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Glass, a professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin. “Others, like Ms. Deschanel, may have looked around at the harried lives of many (but not all) employed mothers and decided why bother?”

Glass, who is a working mom of two, said many women feel they do not have the support they need to have children and continue with careers that they may have spent decades developing.

In many professional fields, such as acting and sports, the peak years of a woman’s career success dovetail almost perfectly with the peak years of fertility.  For some of these women, they may decide they want children “but just not right now because their work and romantic relationships had not gelled in a way that provided needed time and financial support for cutting back,” Glass said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breastfeeding at Target: Moms Stage National Demonstration

George Doyle/Thinkstock/Target(HOUSTON) -- A nursing mother’s upsetting experience at her local Target last month has led to what appear to be “nurse-in” demonstrations at Target stores nationwide.

Mothers from across the country have posted pictures of themselves nursing at Target stores -- from Maryland to Minnesota -- to a Facebook page used to organize the event.

A Target spokeswoman has confirmed that nursing mothers showed up at Target stores Wednesday but said the chain was still gathering information on the scale of the demonstrations.

“I never knew that sitting in a Target and doing what’s normal -- which is feeding my baby -- would result in all of this one day but I’m glad it did, ” Michelle Hickman, the woman who inspired the event, told ABC News.

Last month at a Webster, Texas, Target store, Hickman began nursing her fussy, hungry infant son in the store’s women’s clothing section. Hickman, 35, said that eight Target employees eventually surrounded her and two asked her to move to a fitting room to finish nursing. The other employees, she said, rolled their eyes at her and gave her dirty looks.

Hickman said she tried explaining that Texas law allowed her to breastfeed in public, but the employees wouldn’t listen. Hickman said she later called Target’s corporate offices but was dissatisfied with their response. She said the retailer has yet to apologize to her directly.

Target provided the following statement to ABC News Houston affiliate KTRK:

“As a family-oriented retailer, Target has a long-standing corporate policy that supports breastfeeding in our stores. We continually educate our team members in stores across the country on store policies to ensure all guests have a great experience. We worked with this guest directly to address her concerns and are sorry any inconvenience it has caused. Target is proud to support all mothers who breastfeed year-round, including today.”

Hickman, who is calling for a national law to protect women’s rights to breastfeed in public, said the nationwide demonstration was organized by fellow moms with whom she shared her experience. Her story was also publicized by the pro-breastfeeding group, Best for Babes, which later contacted Target about the incident.

Hickman participated at a nurse-in Wednesday morning at the same Target store where the November incident took place. She was joined by an estimated 50 other mothers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Part-Time Work for Moms Could Provide Best Work-Life Balance

Siri Stafford/Thinkstock(GREENSBORO, N.C.) -- Can part-time work increase the chances of full-time happiness for modern moms?  So suggests a new study published by the American Psychological Association.

“In all cases with significant differences in maternal well-being, such as conflict between work and family or parenting, the comparison favored part-time work over full-time or not working,” the study’s lead author, Cheryl Buehler, a professor of human development and family studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said in a statement released by the APA.

Buehler and co-author Marion O’Brien, a colleague at UNC-Greensboro, analyzed interviews conducted with more than 1,300 moms. Among their findings:

* Part-time working moms and full-time working moms reported better health and fewer symptoms of depression than stay-at-home moms.

* Part-time working moms were as involved in their child’s school as stay-at-home moms, and more involved than full-time working moms.

* Part-time working moms provided their toddlers with more learning opportunities than both stay-at-home moms and full-time working moms.

In their report on the study, UNC’s Buehler and O’Brien said employers could help more people — mothers and fathers alike -- take advantage of the health and family benefits of part-time work by making part-time jobs more attractive.

“Since part-time work seems to contribute to the strength and well-being of families, it would be beneficial to employers if they provide fringe benefits, at least proportionally, to part-time employees as well as offer them career ladders through training and promotion,” O’Brien said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Maternal Mortality Rate Quadruples in South Africa

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(JOHANNESBURG) -- South Africa may be the only country in the world with a national public holiday celebrating the achievements of women. "Women's Day" is a celebration of the protest 55 years ago when 20,000 women took to the streets to fight oppressive apartheid laws.

But activists say women in South Africa are still fighting for some basic human rights, none more so than the right to safely give birth.

A new Human Rights Watch Report says in Sub-Saharan Africa's most developed country, many expectant mothers are living in peril due to inadequate health care.

The scathing report, "Stop Making Excuses: Accountability for Maternal Health Care in South Africa," chronicles scores of stories of pregnant women who were either mistreated, or in some cases not treated at all at government hospitals, resulting in needless health complications or death for themselves or their babies. "We hoped that the awareness surrounding women in South Africa around Women's Day would raise the profile of issues related to maternal death and also injury related to pregnancy," Liesl Gerntholtz, the director for the women's rights program for Human Rights Watch, told ABC News.

Unlike other Sub-Saharan African countries, South Africa enjoys some level of professional healthcare and health workers. The country spends $748 a year per citizen on health care, more than any other country on the sub-continent -- and includes free maternity care. An estimated 87 percent of women have babies in a hospital or clinic.

But nurses, who are the first line of defense in care at government hospitals, complain about being overworked, and under-resourced. That frustration, according to the report, is transferring to the treatment of patients. Discrimination against immigrants and HIV positive women is a particular problem.

South Africa's maternal mortality rate has quadrupled over the last few years, jumping to more than 4,500 maternal deaths per year.

Human Rights Watch acknowledges that the increase could be the result of better record-keeping and South Africa's continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic.

But the report points to factors hospitals can control, such as corruption and accountability. Three hospitals are currently under investigation for high infant mortality rates. One hospital was found to not be using gloves, disinfectants or soap, and 29 babies died last January from an apparent superbug.

South Africa's Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told reporters that the government realizes nurses and hospital staff are under tremendous pressure, and are often working in difficult circumstances, but that the health system has to do better.

Gerntholtz says the South African government has been very receptive to the report and is committed to instituting changes at a national level, but she hopes that commitment will trickle down to the local health care facilities, where these expectant mothers in peril often end up.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drugging Moms to Slim Down Their Babies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- How far will we go to prevent childhood obesity? U.K. researchers are bringing the battle against obesity to babies still in the womb.

In this novel approach, which will ultimately enlist 400 pregnant women in the U.K., obese pregnant women will be given the diabetes drug Metformin in hopes of reducing their infant's chance of developing heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes later in life.

The study, funded by the U.K. government, will be one of the most extensive tests to date of a concept known as fetal programming -- changing the environment of the womb to affect the health of the child.

Doctors already use "fetal programming" in less extreme ways by encouraging pregnant women to take prenatal supplements, make dietary changes, and avoid drug and alcohol use. This study promises to introduce a whole new level that might one day be commonplace: using medications that the mother otherwise wouldn't need in order to tweak the fetal environment.

Natural fetal programming "is a complex process that's evolved over millions of years to help a fetus adapt to the world it will...encounter after birth," says Dr. Alison Stuebe, an assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. "It is the way the mother 'tells' her baby what the world outside will be like."

Obese women tend to have higher blood sugar during pregnancy, and these high levels of blood sugar essentially "tell" the fetus that it needs to make a lot of insulin for itself. As a result, infants born to obese mothers tend to be heavier and produce more insulin. Research shows that these bigger babies grow up into children and adults who are at increased risk for obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

By giving obese mothers-to-be the diabetes drug Metformin -- even though they do not have diabetes -- researchers will be lowering their glucose levels, hopefully mitigating the negative effects of maternal obesity.

It will take years to determine if this intervention pays off. In the short term, however, how big these infants are at birth will serve as a preliminary marker of how well the Metformin is adjusting fetal environment.

But the trial may not be as far a leap into the unknown as it seems, doctors point out:

"Metformin is not a new drug and has been given to pregnant women for years to control diabetes in pregnancy," says Dr. Alan Peaceman, chief of the division of maternal fetal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

While diet and exercise would be the preferred intervention for obese mothers, "patients often find this difficult, especially during pregnancy. Thus, Metformin may provide an alternative option for these women with similar lifelong benefits to the fetus," adds Dr. Victoria Bae-Jump, assistant professor of gynecology oncology at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Doctors seem more concerned that this type of fetal programming intervention can only provide a partial answer to the problem of maternal obesity.

"Ultimately, it's unlikely that a single pill or nutrient is going to override all the effects of maternal obesity on infant development," says Stuebe. There are so many environmental factors in play -- poverty, abuse, stressful environments, she says, that "I'm skeptical of a magic pill to counteract all that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Where's the Best Place to Be a Mom?

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans will celebrate Mother's Day this weekend, and Save the Children has come out with its list of the best places to be a mom.

The United States finished 31st of the 43 developed countries appearing in the rankings of 164 nations.

Save the Children created its list by studying health, education and economic factors for women.

Here's a look at the 10 best and worst places to be a mother:

1. Norway
2. (tie) Australia
2. (tie) Iceland
4. Sweden
5. Denmark
6. New Zealand
7. Finland
8. Belgium
9. Netherlands
10. France

1. Afghanistan
2. Niger
3. Guinea-Bissau
4. Yemen
5. Chad
6. DR Congo
7. Eritrea
8. Mali
9. Sudan
10. Central African Republic

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio