Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Like sugary snacks and cloth diapers, it seems like everyone has an opinion about whether it’s okay for babies and toddlers to veg out with the iPad (or iPhone or TV) every now and then. Even former Secretary of State (and new grandmother) Hillary Clinton chimed in, telling attendees at last week’s American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) convention that a glowing, touch-sensitive screen is no substitute for face-to-face interactions with mom and dad.
And while I have yet to meet a parent who thinks a three-hour “Caillou” marathon is an awesome way for baby to spend an afternoon, I have met many who think nothing of pulling out the iPad during story time. After all, reading to your child is one of the best things you can do — it can help build his language and social skills and even stimulate early brain development. What difference does it make if “Goodnight Moon” comes from a tablet or a board book?
That’s the question at the heart of a current conversation within the medical community, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Though the AAP recommends no screen time for children under 2 and fewer than 2 hours for older kids, the jury is out on the value of reading to baby from a tablet. That’s because the technology is relatively new, so experts haven’t been able to perform long-term studies on how, exactly, it affects baby’s learning.
But that’s not to say that research hasn’t been done to support both sides. The article pointed to a few studies, one as recent as 2013, that concluded kids ages 3 to 5 whose parents read to them from a physical book had better reading comprehension than kids whose parents read to them from eBooks. And when you think about how you read a book to your baby, the findings make a lot of sense. “There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child,” said Dr. Pamela High, who wrote a recent AAP policy that recommended pediatricians remind parents of the importance of story time with baby. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an eBook.”
On the flip side, there’s some evidence that an eBook or learning app that’s super interactive can help kids learn words faster (though it doesn’t do much in the way of helping them learn language).
All of which leaves us parents scratching our heads. Are eBooks screen time brain candy or a decent alternative to board books? Are we bad moms and dads for letting our kids play with apps that emphasize reading? Hardly. Personally, I’ve downloaded a handful of learning apps and will let my son play with them while I hop in the shower for a few minutes or need some moments of quiet to prep dinner. And as closely as I tried to follow the AAP’s screen time rules, there were instances in the first two years when my baby looked at a screen (weekly FaceTime sessions with faraway grandparents, for one). But I can’t say I feel guilty about that. Sometimes, I need all the help I can get, and if that comes in the way of 10 minutes of him playing Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, so be it.
At the end of the day, I think it’s all about balance. For every brief iPad session he has, there are hours we spend cuddling together and reading about the latest Clifford/Pigeon/Little Blue Truck adventure. As much as I appreciate the spiffiness of these interactive apps and eBooks, I happen to think nothing can replace the experience of reading to my son from a regular book. We touch the paper and nothing jumps or whistles or spins. We linger over pictures and sound out letters together without help from a Siri-like voice. And, unplugged, we have a conversation.
Tell us: What’s your take on screen time for your baby? Do you think an e-book can replace a regular book?
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Image of mom and baby looking at tablet courtesy of Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 15th, 2014
A new study has confirmed what scientists have suspected: your memory of labor is influenced more by how painful it was than by how long it lasted. This makes perfect sense to me. I know the hard numbers of my labor: 23 hours in the delivery room, two(!) epidurals, one baby. But my recollection of the actual experience is a bit spotty, the most vivid moments being the epidurals, the stretches of excruciating back labor pain and the second my son entered the world.
Apparently, I’m not alone. The study’s team of scientists somehow got 320 pregnant women to allow a researcher into the delivery room with them, reports Science Daily. Every 20 minutes, the researcher asked the woman to rate her pain on a scale of 1 (no pain) to 100 (worst pain possible). (Side note: Can you imagine having a perfect stranger regularly quiz you on how much pain you’re in while you’re in labor?) The same tenacious researcher followed up with the new mom two days and two months after baby was born, asking her to use the same 1-100 scale to evaluate her labor pain from beginning to end.
For the most part, the pain ratings women gave postpartum were fairly similar to the ones they offered during the throes of labor. Yet, how long they labored had no bearing on how much pain they remember feeling. This falls right in line with a phenomenon known as “duration neglect,” where we remember the pain of an event and ignore everything else, including how long it lasted. (The study’s full results were published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.)
The scientists also found that an epidural can influence your memory of labor, since it effectively blocks the pain. Women who received one reported feeling relatively moderate pain when interviewed after the fact, this despite the fact that they were in labor for longer. Researchers point to two possible reasons for this: duration neglect and the fact that the epidural is already in effect by the end of labor, when pain is most intense. Or, as they wrote in the findings, “In practical terms, these results suggest that epidural analgesia is not only beneficial during childbirth itself but also effective in modulating memory of it.”
Tell us: What do you remember about your labor?
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Image of woman in hospital courtesy of Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
Ever wonder what your baby did in the delivery room, aside from getting kissed, undergoing Apgar tests, and posing for selfies? The question intrigued a group of Swedish scientists enough that they turned it into a study. The researchers watched videos of 28 newborns to see how they instinctively behaved in their first 70 minutes of life. The results were published in January 2011 in Acta Paediatrica and recently reported on in Science News.
What they discovered was that a newborn’s early moments look an awful lot like how most of us spend Thanksgiving Day (but maybe with fewer tears). The general timeline looks something like this: Baby enters the world and lets out a big cry (Minute 0), relaxes for a minute on your chest (Minute 2) then wakes up and opens his eyes for the first time (Minute 2.5). When it’s time to look for food, he starts searching for your breasts. (Minute 8). Another rest (Minute 18). Revived, the hunt begins again, this time with baby actively scooching up toward you (Minute 36) until — tah dah! — he finds the nipple and starts nursing (Minute 62). Belly full, he takes another snooze (Minute 70).
Sound about par for the course, right? While there are no major surprises here, I’m grateful somebody took the time to document our kiddo’s earliest minutes of life. (Heaven knows my memories of that time are either incredibly vivid or hopelessly hazy.) If nothing else, seeing baby’s natural instincts at work drives home to me the importance of skin-to-skin contact and, of course, helping brand-new moms who want to give breastfeeding a shot.
Tell us: How much do you remember about the first hour after baby was born?
Nursing may be great for your baby, but it’s not always easy on you. We’ve got the solutions to your biggest breastfeeding problems. And be sure to like All About Babies on Facebook to keep up with the latest baby news!
Image of newborn with mom courtesy of Shutterstock
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Monday, October 13th, 2014
Remember how nervous you were bringing your brand-new baby home? How you and your partner fretted over every bump in the road and gave the stink eye to any car that got within six feet of yours? How you wanted this maiden voyage — and every one after that — to be smooth, easy and, most importantly, safe?
Turns out, that first trip home from the hospital is often anything but, reports Today.com. According to a new study presented Friday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a whopping 93 percent of parents make at least one major error when installing their car seat or securing baby in it — and that’s before they’ve even left the hospital parking lot. The most common mistakes? A too-loose harness (68 percent), a too-low retainer clip (33 percent), and the wrong harness slot (28 percent). Meanwhile, in almost 70 percent of cases, there were issues with both baby’s positioning and the car seat installation.
The study, led by Dr. Benjamin Hoffman, a professor of pediatrics at the Doernbecher Hospital at the Oregon Health and Science University, involved 267 randomly selected moms and babies who were in the hospital’s mother-baby unit between November 2013 and May 2014. As the women — or a third party — installed the car seat and placed the newborn in it, a certified child passenger safety technician watched and took notes of any mistakes. (The tech helped fix the errors before the new families drove away.)
As Dr. Hoffman points out, it’s all too easy for exhausted, overwhelmed new parents who have never actually used a car seat before to make some mistakes at first. “If you wanted to create the perfect storm for misuse, this would be it,” Dr. Hoffman said. “You take the most vulnerable person you could, a newborn, and the most vulnerable of caretakers, a family that has just had a baby, and you just take them to the door and just say good luck.”
But as any mom or mom-to-be knows, a car seat is only as good as its installation and use. That’s why Dr. Hoffman, himself a car seat technician, offered a slew of tips for rookie parents. They include: tightening the harness so you can’t pinch any slack between your fingers in the harness webbing; keeping the chest clip level with your baby’s armpit; adjusting the car seat at the correct angle; and securing the car seat with either a seat belt or lower anchors — but not both, unless your manufacturer says so. (You should also check out our car seat safety check article for more pointers.)
Of course, if you’re unsure — or too wiped out come the third trimester — you can always ask a car seat safety technician to inspect your handiwork or do the job for you. Each year, Safe Kids Coalition sponsors more than 8,000 free car seat safety events around the country, where on-hand experts will teach you the basics of installation and use. Or you can check the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)’s online directory of car seat inspection stations. The peace of mind you’ll get during that first trip home is priceless.
Tell us: Did you install the car seat yourself or did you ask someone else to do it for you?
How safe is your baby’s car seat? Check out our Products Recall database to find out. And be sure to like All About Babies on Facebook to keep up with the latest baby news!
Image of baby in a carseat courtesy of Shutterstock
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Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Whenever a pregnant friend needs a little reassurance that she’ll manage this whole motherhood thing, she turns to me. Not because I’m a perfect mom (Ha! Does such a person exist?), but because I was as inexperienced as they came when my son was born. (When the nurses brought him to me, I panicked and asked them to show me how to hold a baby again.) “If you can pull it off,” friends tell me, “I’m pretty sure I can.”
In truth, I probably could have benefited from a little more experience with kids. But I’ve found that the best preparation for this gig comes from on-the-job training — especially in baby’s first year. Though I read some books and sat through a few parenting classes, I was nonetheless floored by how much a tiny person could change my entire life. Here are six things I learned the hard way that first year.
1. I do not need eight hours of sleep to function. You know that kid who was always the last to wake up at slumber parties? You’re looking at her. But a newborn has a funny way of tinkering with your notion of sleep. Where once I guarded my full night’s rest with the ferocity of a mama bear, now I was grateful for any snippets of dreamless sleep I could get.
2. Every single muscle and tendon will ache. Day after day. As a gift for enduring a long back labor, the universe blessed me with an easy recovery. But that didn’t mean I was spared discomfort in those first few months. After a few weeks of nursing, cradling, and picking up my growing baby, I started experiencing nagging pain in places I never thought much about before — above my wrists, around my elbows, and down my forearms.
3. Caffeine is a lifesaver. Three years into motherhood, I could write a love letter to coffee. But it wasn’t always that way. For years, I passed over cups of joe in favor of water in the mornings. “It’s the real energy drink,” I’d declare to my buzzing friends. But two weeks into new mom sleep deprivation and I was (literally) sprinting to my local Dunkin’ Donuts for a cuppa.
4. Fresh air cures everything. Early on, my mom told me about the vacuum trick — “just turn it on and clean the rugs when you need a break from the crying,” she’d say — and I tried this twice. Both times Joshua’s sobbing outlasted my tidying up. So one day, when I was plum out of ideas and at my wit’s end, I strapped him in the stroller and went for a really long walk along the East River. The gentle breeze and the whooshing of the barges and boats didn’t just soothe my son. They calmed me down, too.
5. String cheese and avocado are the food of gods. I love trying new foods, and it’s a passion I can indulge often in the city where I live. But infants and high-end restaurants aren’t always compatible, so much of that first year was spent eating at home. What I discovered is that sometimes, the simple food my baby ate, like mozzarella, avocado, and hummus, can taste (almost) as good as the fancy stuff.
6. My body is pretty amazing. A few months after I gave birth, I went shopping at a sample sale, which are notorious for their amazing deals and community dressing rooms. I found a dress I loved and, for a moment, considered putting it back on the rack to spare myself having to change in front of perfect (and perfect-looking) strangers. Then I caught myself: I may not have a perfectly flat belly anymore, but I do have a child who this body of mine nurtured and delivered into the world. And that, to me, is more amazing than a six pack. I tried on the dress, did a few twirls in front of the mirror, and bought it.
Tell us: What have you learned so far from motherhood?
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Image of Bonnie and Josh courtesy of Love, Louise Photography
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