Friday, June 28, 2013

Placenta Encapsulation I: Why Would I Do That?

I haven't shared much on these pages, but I have been completing a wide-range of research for my upcoming labor and delivery. I thought I would use this space to share some of the research I've completed. This is the first post of our next Science Friday series which explores placentophagia- the act of eating the placenta after birth. While this can take several forms for humans, one of the most common is through placenta encapsulation. This post analyzes several theories that have been proposed as the cause of placentophagia.

     While nearly every mammal consumes its placenta after giving birth (a notable exception being marsupials who instead reabsorb the placenta, but do consume birth fluids), research has yet to conclusively find one overarching reason for placentophagia in mammals.  Currently, four theories are used to explain this seemingly innate mammalian behavior.  The first is that during birth, the mother, normally an herbivore, suddenly becomes carnivorous, only craving meat.  As someone who has previously given birth and has been a vegetarian for the past 12 years, I personally found this theory unlikely as I had no desire to eat meat following the birth of my first child, even when hospital’s dining facility continually ignored my vegetarian requests and primarily served me meat.  Like the rodents in studies that investigate this hypothesis, I still refused the meat!
                A second theory is that the mother simply craves food after following birth.  While any mother can attest to the fact that birth is certainly a physical feat that requires recovery, placentophagia has been observed in mammals that continue to eat throughout labor and delivery who, presumably, would not have an increase in hunger following the event.  The third theory again focuses on hunger, but this theory looks at a specific hunger for the placenta.  Research on this theory has been inconclusive as mammals that have not yet given birth will consume another animal’s placenta. 
                The final and perhaps most popular theory is that placentophagia is simply a way for mammals to maintain a clean nest in order to prevent the attraction of predators.  While this theory is straight-forward, it does ignore several refuting factors.  Firstly, as previously stated, nearly every mammal consumes its placenta.  This means that even the mightiest of predators, which are in little need to detract other mammals, takes the time to eat their placentas.  Secondly, animals who do not maintain a constant nesting site remain at the site of the birth to consume the placenta, actually putting themselves in greater risk of predators.  A final challenge to the nest theory, and the one I found most convincing, is the fact the placenta is not the only bodily expulsion during labor.  Blood and other amniotic fluids would also completely saturate the area, clearly leaving evidence of a nest, despite the removal of the placenta.  
       Each of these theories clearly has it's skeptics- check out next week's post to learn more evolutionary (and, in my mind, convincing) rationales!

Kristal, M.B. (1980). Placentophagia: A biobehavioral enigma. Neuroscience and Biohehavioral Reviews, (4)141-150.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Watch Her Grow...

This Week's Focus: Practical Life
Holy Cow! I can't believe it's been so long since I've done one of these posts- it's funny how a two-week vacation can spread when you include preparations and a recovery period!

Interactions with Materials
  • I have spoken about Q-ball's desire for pretend play previously, but it has really blossomed.  Frankly, she rarely gets involved in other play at home.  She uses a reusable shopping bag to be a dog on a lease who often travels with us.  She uses her favorite walking wagon to go grocery shopping.  She cooks for Mama and Daddy.  Following our vacation, she would pretend to go to hotels to eat breakfast (waffles!)
  • Her current shelf rotation includes her train set, and she has enjoyed pushing it around the room with a Superman figure serving as the engineer. 
Interactions with Others 
  • She really has started to seek out others for play.  The other day we were enjoying a meal at a causal and empty cafe.  There was one other family with a 2-year-old who was playing under the table.  Q-ball was so excited to play with him, she finally pushed her food away and asked to go join him.  They play closely and rather cooperatively for quite awhile!  (Although her later description of the play was that he was "pushing" and "hitting" her.)
Interactions with Life 
  • Q-ball has really gotten involved in personal life tasks.  After losing interest in dressing herself, she has again taken the riegns (with a little prodding from Mama.)  Yesterday, she dragged our dirty towel basket to the washing machine and filled the washing machine, so she could help Mama with laundry.  She's also taken out the drying rack and moved clothes from her closet to the rack to again help with laundry.
We are linking up with Vibrant Wanderings!  Check out what other kiddos are up to this week!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Shapes: Our Three Part Montessori Lesson

This is our second three-part lesson.  To read about our first, check out this post.   

Currently, Q-ball's shelves are stocked with a variety of materials the emphasis shapes.  She had started to show an initial interest in different shapes, so I wanted to give her a chance to explore the topic a bit further.  In addition, to clearing digging our any materials that fostered shape exploration, I picked up books from the library that also focused on the topic.  I had never planned to do a formal lesson (she is 26 months old, after all, and I try to avoid too much formality).  However, last week, Q-ball suddenly seemed extremely engaged in the book Museum Shapes, so I decided to work in a quick lesson on shapes.

  • Pictures of shapes.  We used the books Museum Shapes and Shape Capers. We both much prefer the former.
  • Sensory that include lots of different shapes- blocks, sorting toys, puzzles, etc.
Blocks, Stacking and sorting materials, and egg shakers for the "oval" (turns out Q-ball really likes ovals!)

The Lesson:
  • Step 1: I simply read the books to Q-ball, repeating the name of the shape several times as I pointed to different examples throughout the book.
  • Step 2: After reading each book once, I read it again, and asked Q-ball to say the name of the shapes.  She was able to do this with the vast majority of shapes (arch and semi-circle were a little out of reach, but I presented seven shapes, focusing on the five most basic.  Most sources recommend presenting 3-5 objects in a 3 part lesson.) If you child is not able to do this with 100% accuracy, go back to step 1.  The goal is for your child to succeed, so you do not want to move forward until you have 100% success. Doing this over several days is more than acceptable!
  • Step 3:  Then, I asked Q-ball if she wanted to find shapes in her toys.  She quickly jumped off of the couch with her book to find the matches.  Without much guidance from me, she was able to search her shelves and find "circle like my circle" when I opened the book to the circle page.
Extension Activities:  Q-ball came up with these extension games on her own!
  • Group sensory materials by type.  (All circles in this corner; all squares in this corner.)
  • Cut and glue.  Q-ball named the shape she wanted, and I cut it out.  Using glue stick, Q-ball glued it to paper.  (If your child has been introduced to scissors, you can, of course, switch roles.) 

Montessori Mom. (2009). The three period lesson. Retrieved from
Montessori Print Shop Blog. (2012). How to give a Montessori 3 period lesson. Retrieved from

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