Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Wrap-up: Parenting and Pregnancy News

Jennifer Garner Dishes on Pregnancy on Leno [NBC]

9 Things I Learned In The Parent Encouragement Program [Deadspin]

What kind of childhood stress should parents actually be stressing about? [Slate]

Chris Hemsworth, Elsa Pataky Expecting First Child [People]

Rock-Climbing Pregnant Woman Is Extremely Awesome [Jezebel]

NY woman's 2 babies grew in her 2 uteruses [WSJ]

Colorado mom struck by lightning last summer gives birth to healthy girl [WashPo]

Meet Lawnmower Mom, the Pushy Parent of 2012 [lilsugar]

Breastfed babies show more challenging temperaments, study finds [guardianUK]

Have a great weekend!

Naps Important for Toddler's Cognition, Emotions

Photo credit: crimfants'
Have you ever spent the day with a toddler who's missed her nap? If you have, then this news shouldn't surprise you, but a new study confirms what many of us have seen first hand. Sleep is very important for rapidly growing little ones and missing a nap can significantly effect their ability to solve problems and their emotional reactions to events.

Monique LeBourgeois, leader of the study out of the University of Colorado Boulder, says: "The goal of our study was to understand how losing sleep affects the way young kids respond emotionally to their world. This is important because toddlerhood is a sensitive period for developing strategies to cope with emotions and a time children naturally lose some sleep as they begin giving up their daytime naps." The team of researchers put toddlers between the ages of two and three years old on 12-hour sleep schedules for five days before testing, to ensure their circadian rhythms were in balance. Then the toddlers were introduced to challenging puzzles on a day when they had their normal nap and on another day when they went without one. Toddlers who napped were more likely to express confusion - a healthy and complex emotion - and ask for help when they were unable to solve a puzzle. This reaction is evidence of cognitive engagement with the world. The toddlers without a nap had less positive reactions if they were able to solve a puzzle and much more negative reactions if they were unable to solve a puzzle.

LeBourgeois says of the results: "Many young children today are not getting enough sleep, and for toddlers, daytime naps are one way of making sure their ‘sleep tanks' are set to full each day. This study shows insufficient sleep in the form of missing a nap taxes the way toddlers express different feelings, and, over time, may shape their developing emotional brains and put them at risk for lifelong, mood-related problems." Sleep deprivation has repeatedly been shown to have a negative effect on cognitive functioning and emotional well-being in adults, so it should hardly come as a surprise that this is true of toddlers as well. Nevertheless, it's a good reminder to make sure toddlers are getting enough sleep each day.

Have you tried phasing out naps with your toddler?

Nap-deprived tots may be missing out on more than sleep, says new CU-led study [CU]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

End of First Trimester is Worst Time to Drink Alcohol
It's generally considered common knowledge that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) but little is known about how much alcohol and at which point during a woman's pregnancy the damage is done. Results of a long-term study have recently helped to pinpoint some of the details behind the disorder.

Over 900 women were recruited between 1975 and 2005 by researchers when they called a helpline in California to find out more about harmful substances during pregnancy. They were asked about how much alcohol they consumed at several points throughout their pregnancy and then their babies were examined for signs of FAS after birth. Doctors who examined the babies were unaware of which of the babies' mothers had drank. The conclusion of the research was that for each additional drink imbibed daily during pregnancy, there was an increased chance of the baby having a misshaped head, malformed lips or eyes. These symptoms also suggest neurological disorders.

The point at which women drank during their pregnancies had an influence as well. Women who drank at the end of the first trimester were more likely to have babies with symptoms of FAS and the risk increased for each extra drink they consumed a day. Each extra drink equated to a 25% increased risk of a malformed lip, a 12% increase in a smaller-than-normal head, and a 16% increase in low birth weight. In contrast, each extra drink consumed during the third trimester only correlated with a smaller length at birth.

Although the study sheds some light on a time when the fetus is more vulnerable to the influence of alcohol, still so much of how alcohol effects the fetus is unknown. It's unclear how some women who binge drink will have babies with no evident problems, while other babies will develop FAS. However, researchers attribute differences in body fat, diet, environment and genetics. Due to the individualized chances of developing FAS, it's still advisable that pregnant women avoid alcohol consumption altogether.

Do you indulge in the occasional glass of wine?

Alcohol Risk to Fetus Is Highest at End of 1st Trimester [MyHealthDailyNews]

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Best of the Web: Parenting and Pregnancy News

N.J. woman gives birth on commuter train [USAToday]

Learn How to Make the Elephant Sound Now, Before It's Too Late [Jezebel]

Lindsay Davenport Welcomes a Daughter [People]

The Obamas As Parents [HuffPo]

Books to Help Talk to Tots About a New Baby [lilsugar]

Jessica Capshaw Expecting Third Child [CelebrityBabyScoop]

Baby No. 5 On the Way for Kelsey Grammer [People]

How Does a Millionaire Discipline His Kids? [Parenting]

Family Fun on the Cheap [RealSimple]

Kastor, After Pregnancy, Sees Trials as New Start [NYTimes]

Babies are Lip-Readers

Babies learn language in many ways. Scientists have discovered that babies are good at listening for grammatical trends to decipher meaning, assigning physical properties to new sounds, detecting emotions in a person's voice and so much more. Now researchers have discovered a different skill used for language acquisition by babies: lip reading.

When you hear your baby babbling about "baba," "shooshoo," and "whoa, whoa, whoa," it seems clear that they're trying to work out the sounds of words, but they might be trying to replicate the shape of a person's lips too. Scientists have discovered that during the transition between gibberish and actually pronouncing their first words that babies are intently watching the lips of those who are talking to them and trying to mimic the movements used to make the same sounds. David Lewkowicz, head researcher of the Florida Atlantic University research team that made the discovery, says: "The baby in order to imitate you has to figure out how to shape their lips to make that particular sound they’re hearing." The transition period typically occurs at approximately six months of age and by about one year, babies begin looking people in the eyes more often as they speak. However, babies who hear a new language at this age will return to staring at a person's lip as they speak.

The discovery was made by introducing babies of varying ages to different languages and seeing where their visual attention was drawn. While watching someone speak English, the four-month-olds mostly looked into the speaker's eyes, the six-month-olds looked about equally as often into the person's eyes as at their lips and the eight-month-olds mostly gazed at the person's lips. The 12-month-olds gazed in the speaker's eyes more often. Once the speaker spoke Spanish, the 12-month-olds turned their gaze back towards the lips.

The findings shed a lot of light on language development and could provide some clues for babies with developmental disorders, such as autism. Overall, the research clearly illustrates the importance of face-to-face time with young infants.

Do you notice your baby looking at your lips while you speak?

HEALTHBEAT: Babies don’t just listen, they try lip-reading while turning babble into words [WashPo]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Giving is the Most Natural Thing in the World

I try to get our son, age 4, to share his toys, etc. with his younger sister or the kids at school, but everything is always, "No! Mine!" with him. I feel like I am swimming upstream, pushing against his nature. Then I think about the world and sometimes I wonder, are people just plain selfish?

You're right, some days you read the newspaper and have to shake your head in dismay and sorrow. Your question is poignant, touching, and profound: Are humans naturally more inclined to be domineering and selfish, or to be cooperative and giving?

How we answer this question leads right to how we raise our children (and conduct ourselves with others, write laws, establish governments, and so on). If our answer leans toward the domineering view, then it follows that people - including children - need substantial controls (both external and internalized) to get them to act right. On the other hand, if the answer leans toward the cooperative view, then most people should be able to do alright with a lot of freedom to find their own way toward civilized behavior.

Of course, people are different. Some are very aggressive and exploitive of others, while some are very peaceful and generous. And wherever he or she is along that spectrum, almost everyone has the capacity to be both selfishly grabby and selflessly open-handed - just like preschoolers!

Further, much research about parenting keeps painting the same picture: the best-odds strategy for most children is to raise them with:

HIGH love, nurturance, acceptance, attunement, sensitivity, responsiveness, affection, interest

HIGH communication of moral values and support for being resilient, resourceful, diligent, ambitious

MODERATE parental authority, including an insistence that parents are the ultimate boss, clear standards, and potent rewards and penalties

In short, we firmly believe that parents must claim their authority, be morally self-confident, and take responsibility for the moral instruction of their children.

That said, we also believe that the great weight of evidence is on the side of the view that the tendencies to be cooperative and giving are much more central and stronger in most people than tendencies to be domineering and selfish. And to anyone who worries and cares about the world we are bequeathing to our children, this has got to be good news.

Read more at ParentingWeekly

Monday, January 16, 2012

Fetal Development - Week Four (Video)

Your baby is entering the embryonic period, during which the brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs will form.
The spinal cord is one of the first structures to develop when a sheet of cells on the back of the embryo folds in the middle to form a tube, which will become the spinal cord full of nerves. At one end, the tube enlarges to form the brain's major sections.
The amniotic fluid also begins to accumulate and in the weeks and months ahead this fluid will cushion your precious baby. The placenta, chorionic villi, and the umbilical cord - which delivers nourishment and oxygen to your baby - are already on the job. By the end of the first month, your baby will be about 1/10 of an inch long (smaller than a grain of rice) and its heart, no larger than a poppy seed, will have begun beating.

Which week are you in?

My Baby - Week by Week Pregnancy [PregnancyWeekly]