Saturday, May 07, 2005

MOTHER'S DAY is the day you thank your mother, and get thanked if you are a mother, for all the hard work mothers do all year round. And how do mothers get thanked? By giving them gifts, right?

Well, it seems that we are not all on the same page as to what the word "gift" means. I always thought it meant something given to another person to express love or appreciation, with nothing expected in return. To my thinking, a gift by definition is something that the person receiving it wants, or would want, or that would give that person pleasure, happiness, or joy.

Well. Apparently Richard H. Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General, believes that the perfect gift to mothers on Mother's Day is a list of all the things mothers should be doing for their children if they want to be considered good mothers. I'll say it again. This is his gift to American mothers. A to-do list, a task list, a reminder of the work they have to do. Not flowers. Not dinner out. Not a book to read. Not breakfast in bed. Not a day of complete rest for her, when all the things mother does all year are done by the family she does them for. No. Carmona's gift to mothers is a work list.

The Surgeon General's Tips for Mothers and Mothers-To-Be: 1. Eat Healthy. It's good for you and your baby. Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Also, every woman of childbearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Folic acid can prevent neural tube defects (including spina bifida) and congenital malformations, which are the leading cause of infant mortality. 2. Don't drink alcohol when you are pregnant or might become pregnant. There is no known safe level of alcohol consumption for pregnant women. Alcohol can affect an unborn baby even before a woman knows that she is pregnant, and the problems caused by prenatal alcohol exposure are lifelong. Alcohol-related birth defects are completely preventable, and eliminating alcohol will prevent all alcohol-related birth defects, including growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, central nervous system impairment, behavioral disorders, and intellectual development. 3. Get prenatal care early. As soon as you think you may be pregnant, see a health care professional for prenatal care. And continue going for prenatal care during your pregnancy. Immediate and consistent prenatal care can prevent preterm delivery, and improve pregnancy and childbirth. 4. Don't smoke. And don't allow anyone else to smoke around your baby. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to a low birthweight baby and can reduce your baby's lung function. Even second-hand smoke can have a harmful effect on your baby's breathing and can have long-term respiratory consequences like impaired lung growth, chronic coughing, and wheezing. In addition, disorders related to preterm birth and low birthweight are the second-leading cause of infant death. Diseases of the respiratory system (aggravated by second-hand smoke) are one of the leading causes of infant hospitalization and infant doctor visits. For help to quit smoking, please visit 5. Breastfeed your baby. Breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life has significant health benefits, and maintain a healthy diet after that. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory illnesses. Mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Breast milk has agents called antibodies to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses and to help them fight off infection and disease. 6. Place your baby "back to sleep." A baby should sleep on a firm mattress, on his or her back, with no fluffy pillows or stuffed animals. Following these simple steps can lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the third-leading cause of infant death in the United States. 7. Always use a car safety seat. Be sure your baby rides in an age- and weight-appropriate child safety seat, correctly installed, on every trip. If you have any questions about how to install your child safety seat, many local fire and police departments will help you. And children should always ride in the back seat. 8. Never leave your baby unattended. To prevent unintentional injuries, the sixth-leading cause of infant death, never leave a baby unattended on a bed or changing table, always use the harness on a stroller or high chair, and use baby gates and window guards. Never leave a baby unattended in a bath or near a pool. 9. Safety-proof your house. To prevent accidental poisoning, move all medications and cleaning products to high shelves. To prevent burns, set the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and never leave cups of hot liquid on tables or counter edges and never carry hot liquids or food while holding your child. To prevent choking, be sure that any toys your child plays with do not have parts that are small enough to choke on. You can test any toy part by simply dropping it through a paper-towel roll. If it goes through, the piece is too small and could become a choking hazard. Never allow infants to play with balloons or plastic bags. To prevent drowning, install a toilet lid lock on every toilet in the home. Drowning can happen in less than a couple of inches of water. 10. Never, ever shake your baby. Shaking a baby, even a little, may lead to severe brain damage and death. 11. Fully immunize your baby. Be sure your baby gets all immunizations on time. Immunizations have prevented death and disease for millions of children throughout the United States and the rest of the world. Talk with your child's pediatrician about keeping up to date on all vaccinations. 12. Learn infant first aid and CPR. Be prepared. Know how to call for help and learn infant first aid and CPR. We hope you will never have to use this skill. But if you do, the life you save could be your child's.

I especially like the stern warnings on how to prevent your baby or child from burning, choking, suffocation, drowning, and Sudden Infant Death syndrome; not to mention Number 10 ("Never, ever shake your baby. Shaking a baby, even a little, may lead to severe brain damage and death.")

Lovely. I am so won over by this man's charm.

And here is the icing on the cake. After reminding mothers of all the many, many ways they can totally screw it up, ruin their children's chances for a happy life, and even kill them, he says this:

"Being a mom is the toughest job in the world, and I'm proud to be able to give you these tips as a gift on this Mother's Day. May you and your family have a safe and healthy year."

Hear that, moms of America? Say thank you to the nice man for your gift on Mother's Day.

Hat tip to Echidne.

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