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How to parent like a celebrity

Alicia Silverstone, Gisele Bundchen and January Jones bring star power to extreme mothering. What do experts say about chewing food for kids, vegan diets and more?

May 10, 2012|By Emily Sohn, Special to the Los Angeles Times

Studies have linked breast-feeding with a variety of benefits for babies, including lower risks of obesity, asthma and gastrointestinal infections, and better intellectual performance, along with reduced risk of certain cancers for some mothers. But few studies last beyond infancy or early childhood. So even though advocates claim that the benefits of breast milk continue through age 6 or 7, there's no evidence that it's better than a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, Swanson says.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months, followed by supplemental nursing through age 2 or longer, while the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends going for at least a year. Dettwyler says, "Any nursing is better than no nursing at all."

Diaper-free babies

Toilet-trained at 6 months? Sounds great, but it might be the parents who are getting trained.

In the Western world, most doctors recommend waiting until a child is 18 months to begin toilet training; that's when it is believed that the brain can begin to recognize signals from the bladder.

But in parts of Asia, Africa and other places where resources may be lacking for years worth of Huggies, mothers carry around naked infants, apparently without incident. Celebs, including Bundchen and Bialik, are signing on. The practice is called elimination communication or natural infant hygiene. Bundchen says she had her son trained by 6 months; Bialik says her son was in underwear by 17 months.

By learning to respond immediately to the signs of a baby's impending bladder or bowel release by holding him over a toilet and giving a vocal or hand signal — and beginning the process within the first six months of life — advocates say that parents can save loads of money on diapers, reduce skin irritation and avoid willful potty-training battles. Of course, caregivers also need to have lots of time and patience — and maybe a cleanup staff?

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