Baby names, panda poo and pre-pregnancy food rules: weird and wonderful parenting news of the week

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  • The 10 weirdest baby names

    So you thought only celebrities gave their children weirdy names? Think again.

    Kim Kardashian's Nori, Gwyneth Paltrow's Apple and Kerry Katona's Dylan-Rose just fade into the frankly run-of-the-mill, compared to this year's top 10 list of the oddest baby names chosen by parents in the US.

    Proudly claiming the number-1 slot of the list is Zzyzx – pronounced Zay Zix – which, believe it or not, is a name given to at least 5 babies, according to US records.

    Apparently, it's a baby name inspired by a town in San Bernardino County, California, which was so name in order to be certain it would always appear last in any alphabetical list of US towns, and could therefore claim to be 'the last place on earth'.

    Other names on the list, put together by eBabynames.com, include Moo, Carrion, Dzyre (that's Desire in an 'alternative' spelling), Bush and Jealousy.

    And such was the standard of boggling babyname nominations, there wasn't even room in the top 10 for Unicorn, Rainbow Star-Dancer and the alphabetically astounding Abcde – pronouned Ab Si Dee. Yes, really.

    Here's that top 10 list in full. Read it and weep...

    1. Zzyzx
    2. Nimrod
    3. Moo
    4. Lucifer
    5. Zamzam
    6. Dzyre
    7. Jealousy
    8. Bush
    9. Kyller
    10. Mc

  • Sperm made from infertile men's skin cells

    US scientists have stunned infertility experts the world over by turning skin tissue from infertile men into early-stage sperm cells.

    All the men who took part in the Stanford University study have major genetic defects that seriously compromise their ability to produce sperm. So that means other men who currently aren't able to produce any sperm (or enough healthy sperm) to have children of their own may, one day, be able to have treatment that'll allow them to, artificially, produce sperm of their own.

    And that would be a major cause of celebration for many couples who are struggling to conceive, given that male infertility is a concern for roughly half of all those who seek fertility treatment.

    In the UK, the use of artificially created sperm to make babies is banned. But sperm made through this new technique – where converted skin cells are grown into sperm in the men's testes – may be legal to use, as they are created inside the body, rather than in a test tube.

  • Banana sculpture goes viral

    Now here's something to keep your children excited about their 5-a-day. It's a horse's head carved out of a banana – and it's the amazing work of Japanese artist Keisuke Yamada.

    Keisuke has been steadily gaining a cult following after posting pictures of his amazing banana art online.

    Among the edible effigies he's made so far are fruity likenesses of Marge Simpson, Elvis Presley, Prince William and Kate, and the Greek god Poseidon.

    Keisuke, who is an electrician, makes his sculptures after work with a spoon and toothpick, eating the bits he's carves off as he goes. He says the whole artistic process is a race against time: if he takes more than 30 minutes, the peeled banana he's using starts turning brown, and his sculpture's ruined.

    Once he’s finished, he quickly takes a photo of his latest masterpiece – and then eats it. Obviously...

  • Asthma: schools may be allowed to keep spare inhalers

    Schools may soon be allowed to keep spare inhalers on the premises for pupils who have asthma.

    At the moment, schools are not able to keep spares in their first-aid kits because the blue reliever inhalers are a prescribed medicine.

    But campaigners, including Asthma UK, have long been saying that letting schools keep spares could reduce the risk of emergency hospital admission for more than a million pupils affected by childhood asthma.

    But now the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has said a Department of Health consultation will look at providing guidance for schools on the use of the devices.

    It's thought that about three-quarters of many daily asthma-related child emergency admissions to hospital could be avoided if the child's condition were better managed at school or at home.

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  • Selfies are over, long live the shelfie!

    It's the new Instagram and Twitter pic-sharing trend – and it's all about showing off your books, not your body.

    The shelfie, a photograph of a shelf in your home, is rapidly taking over from the selfie as the new social-media pic-sharing trend.

    And, as you can see from our pic, posted by blogger Captured by Lucy, book lovers big and small are getting in on the act.

    "What a great way to encourage children to love their books!" commented Lucy when she posted his lovely shelfie collage inspired by her child's school's celebrations for World Book Day – and we couldn't agree more...

  • What you eat BEFORE you get pregnant can affect your baby's genes

    Your diet just before you conceive can permanently influence your baby's DNA, says a team of UK and US researchers.

    Their study is the first to show that what you eat before pregnancy can switch genes on or off.

    The researchers based their finding on their study of women in rural Gambia, where changes in the weather in different seasons can mean big differences in the kind of food the women are able to eat.

    "The key message is that a mother’s nutrition before she becomes pregnant is super-critical," says team researcher Andrew Prentice, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

    "There is a lot going on before the moment of conception. And our research is pointing to the need for a cocktail of nutrients – which could come from the diet or from supplements."

    It's too early for the scientists to offer definitive guidance on what exactly is best to eat before trying to conceive but they say milk, protein and green, leafy vegetables may well be the key foods to focus on.

  • Zoo keepers wear panda costumes (smeared with panda poo)

    Keepers at the Wolong Panda Reserve in China have to dress up in panda suits when they're working with the reserve's panda.

    And not only that, they have to 'pre-smear' the panda suits with panda wee and poo!

    It sounds a mite crazy (and pretty darn funny) but apparently the idea is to try to make the pandas feel at home and to limit their interactions with human beings – because these pandas will eventually be re-introduced into the wild, and the keepers don't want them to become too comfortable around us.

    Hmm. If your child wants to be work with wild animals when he or she grows up, you might want to have a quiet word...

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