Archive for the ‘ Child Health ’ Category

Four in 10 Infants Don’t Have Strong Parental Attachments

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

In a study of 14,000 U.S. children, 40 percent lack strong emotional bonds — what psychologists call “secure attachment” — with their parents that are crucial to success later in life, according to a new report. More from EurekaAlert.org:

In a report published by Sutton Trust, a London-based institute that has published more than 140 research papers on education and social mobility, researchers from Princeton University, Columbia University, the London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Bristol found that infants under the age of three who do not form strong bonds with their mothers or fathers are more likely to be aggressive, defiant and hyperactive as adults. These bonds, or secure attachments, are formed through early parental care, such as picking up a child when he or she cries or holding and reassuring a child.

“When parents tune in to and respond to their children’s needs and are a dependable source of comfort, those children learn how to manage their own feeling and behaviors,” said Sophie Moullin, a joint doctoral candidate studying at Princeton’s Department of Sociology and the Office of Population Research, which is based at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “These secure attachments to their mothers and fathers provide these children with a base from which they can thrive.”

Written by Moullin, Jane Waldfogel from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science and Elizabeth Washbrook from the University of Bristol, the report uses data collected by the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative U.S. study of 14,000 children born in 2001. The researchers also reviewed more than 100 academic studies.

Their analysis shows that about 60 percent of children develop strong attachments to their parents, which are formed through simple actions, such as holding a baby lovingly and responding to the baby’s needs. Such actions support children’s social and emotional development, which, in turn, strengthens their cognitive development, the researchers write. These children are more likely to be resilient to poverty, family instability, parental stress and depression. Additionally, if boys growing up in poverty have strong parental attachments, they are two and a half times less likely to display behavior problems at school.

The approximately 40 percent who lack secure attachments, on the other hand, are more likely to have poorer language and behavior before entering school. This effect continues throughout the children’s lives, and such children are more likely to leave school without further education, employment or training, the researchers write. Among children growing up in poverty, poor parental care and insecure attachment before age four strongly predicted a failure to complete school. Of the 40 percent who lack secure attachments, 25 percent avoid their parents when they are upset (because their parents are ignoring their needs), and 15 percent resist their parents because their parents cause them distress.

“This report clearly identifies the fundamental role secure attachment could have in narrowing that school readiness gap and improving children’s life chances. More support from health visitors, children’s centers and local authorities in helping parents improve how they bond with young children could play a role in narrowing the education gap,” said Conor Ryan, director of research at the Sutton Trust.

Susan Campbell, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh who studies social and emotional development in young children and infants, said insecure attachments emerge when primary caregivers are not “tuned in” to their infant’s social signals, especially their cries of distress during infancy.

“When helpless infants learn early that their cries will be responded to, they also learn that their needs will be met, and they are likely to form a secure attachment to their parents,” Campbell said. “However, when caregivers are overwhelmed because of their own difficulties, infants are more likely to learn that the world is not a safe place — leading them to become needy, frustrated, withdrawn or disorganized.”

The researchers argue that many parents — including middle-class parents — need more support to provide proper parenting, including family leave, home visits and income supports.

“Targeted interventions can also be highly effective in helping parents develop the behaviors that foster secure attachment. Supporting families who are at risk for poor parenting ideally starts early — at birth or even before,” said Waldfogel, a co-author of the report and a professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia.

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Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months
Development Milestones: What to Expect at 6 Months

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Mom Creates Harness So Kids Get a Chance to Walk

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

Mom Debby Einatan was heartbroken when she first received news that her son Rotem, then 2, had no consciousness of his legs due to cerebral palsy. His condition inspired her to create a harness, called the Firefly Upsee, that allows wheelchair-bound small children to walk with a parent or adult. More from TODAY Moms:

On April 7, the Firefly Upsee Harness will be available for $540 plus shipping and fits children ages 3 to 8. Upsee includes double rubber shoes, a pair for parent and child each. The harness, which parents wear around their waists, consists of a soft material and resembles a wearable baby carrier.

Physical therapist Joseph Schreiber says the Upsee may be helpful for children to play and move more efficiently.

“It is always wonderful to see children, especially those with special needs, participating in a wide variety of fun and age-appropriate activities,” Schreiber, pediatrics president for the American Physical Therapy Association, told TODAY Moms in an email.

He recommends parents consult with physical therapists before purchasing a product such as Upsee to make sure it is safe and the right choice for the child.

Elnatan says being upright and bearing his or her own weight gives the child access to the world.

“[The child] can reach out and touch, something which is hard to do from a carriage or wheelchair,” Elnatan says.

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Life with Cerebral Palsy
Life with Cerebral Palsy
Life with Cerebral Palsy

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Blood Test to Predict Whether a Child Will Become Obese?

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014

DNA-HelixResearchers have developed a test children can take around the age of five that may help identify children that are at risk for becoming obese. The test would analyze the PGC1a gene, which controls fat storage. The study leaders hope this test will help those kids with an increased risk to learn more about healthy living from an earlier age. More from the University of Southampton:

Scientists have found that a simple blood test, which can read DNA, could be used to predict obesity levels in children.

Researchers at the Universities of Southampton, Exeter and Plymouth used the test to assess the levels of epigenetic switches in the PGC1a gene – a gene that regulates fat storage in the body.

Epigenetic switches take place through a chemical change called DNA methylation which controls how genes work and is set during early life.

The Southampton team found that the test, when carried out on children at five years old, differentiates between children with a high body fat and those with a low body fat when they were older. Results showed that a rise in DNA methylation levels of 10 per cent at five years was associated with up to 12 per cent more body fat at 14 years. Results were independent of the child’s gender, their amount of physical activity and their timing of puberty.

Dr Graham Burdge, of the University of Southampton who led the study with colleague Dr Karen Lillycrop, comments: “It can be difficult to predict when children are very young, which children will put on weight or become obese. It is important to know which children are at risk because help, such as suggestions about their diet, can be offered early and before they start to gain weight.

“The results of our study provide further evidence that being overweight or obese in childhood is not just due to lifestyle, but may also involve important basic processes that control our genes. We hope that this knowledge will help us to develop and test new ways to prevent children developing obesity which can be introduced before a child starts to gain excess weight. However, our findings now need to be tested in larger groups of children.”

The study, which also involved Professor Terence Wilkin at the University of Exeter and Dr Joanne Hosking at the University of Plymouth, is published in the journal Diabetes. The researchers used DNA samples from 40 children who took part in the EarlyBird project, which studied 300 children in Plymouth from the age of five until they were 14 years old.

Led by Professor Wilkin, the study assessed the children in Plymouth each year for factors related to type 2 diabetes, such as the amount of exercise they undertook and the amount of fat in their body. A blood sample was collected and stored. The Southampton team extracted DNA from these blood samples to test for epigenetic switches.

Professor Wilkin says: “The EarlyBird study has already provided important information about the causes of obesity in children. Now samples stored during the study have provided clues about the role of fundamental processes that affect how genes work, over which a child has no control. This has shown that these mechanisms can affect their health during childhood and as adults.”

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How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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New Study: Only 10 Percent of Kids at Risk for Low Vitamin D Levels

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

A new Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study reveals that the estimated number of children who are thought to have low levels of vitamin D is significantly fewer than what previous studies indicated. New Institute of Medicine guidelines state that people get enough vitamin D if their blood levels are at or above 20 nanograms per milliliter, whereas previously it was thought to be 30 nanograms per milliliter. With these new guidelines, Loyola researchers found the percentage of kids at risk for vitamin D deficiencies to be 10 percent. More from LoyolaMedicine.org:

Loyola researchers studied vitamin D data from a nationally representative sample of 2,877 U.S. children and adolescents ages 6 to 18 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study found that under the Institute of Medicine guidelines, 10.3 percent of children ages 6 to 18 are at risk of inadequate or deficient vitamin D levels. (This translates to an estimated 5.5 million children.)

By comparison, a 2009 study in the journal Pediatrics, which defined sufficient vitamin D levels as greater than 30 ng/mL, found that an estimated 70 percent of people ages 1 to 21 had deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels.

Under previous guidelines, millions of children who had vitamin D levels between 20 and 30 ng/mL would have needed supplementation. Under the Institute of Medicine guidelines, children in this range no longer need to take vitamin D supplements.

The Institute of Medicine’s new vitamin D guidelines are based on nearly 1,000 published studies and testimony from scientists and other experts. The IOM found that vitamin D is essential to avoid poor bone health, such as rickets. But there have been conflicting and mixed results in studies on whether vitamin D can also protect against cancer, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and diabetes. Moreover, excessive vitamin D can damage the kidneys and heart, the IOM found.

Stay on top of your child’s health with this vaccine schedule

How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids
How to Eat Healthy: Raising Nutrition-Smart Kids

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New App Lets Expecting Moms Listen to Fetal Heartbeat

Monday, March 24th, 2014

Expectant moms can now listen to their baby’s heartbeat through an iPhone, thanks to an app called Bellabeat. With the device, moms can record and track the baby’s heartbeat per minute as well as the baby’s weight changes and number of kicks over time. In addition to keeping the baby’s stats, the app lets moms keep track on of their moods throughout the pregnancy in hopes that moms and doctors can catch early signs of depression. More from Mashable.com:

Bellabeat, the company behind the iPhone-enabled fetal heart-rate monitor, updated its iOS app on Thursday.

The latest version includes a new feature to help expectant mothers track changes in their mental health, in addition to the tools for keeping tabs on their own physical health and their baby’s development.

Bellabeat’s Connected System allows pregnant women to listen to their children’s heartbeats through a device that connects to a smartphone with an audio cable. It uses sound waves to find the baby’s heartbeat while the accompanying Bellabeat app records the audio.

The app tracks heartbeats per minute and gives users tools to track other important stats, like the number of times a baby kicks or how its weight changes over time.

The new mood-tracking feature is meant to help pregnant women recognize early symptoms of depression, said Bellabeat cofounder Urška Sršen.

“Depression disorders during pregnancy, which are very common, can lead to other health complications for the mother and the baby,” Sršen said in an interview with Mashable. “We decided to add this mood tracker to encourage women to keep notes on their mood day by day so they can recognize these symptoms quite early on.”

Users will be able to track changes in their moods and feelings throughout pregnancy by recording notes within the app. Additionally, once a month, users will be asked to answer two questions about their feelings and moods overall. If a pattern suggesting early signs of depression emerges, the app encourages users to seek help from their healthcare providers. The app also provides listings of nearby clinics to make it easier for women to find treatment.

Bellabeat, a Y Combinator-backed startup, first launched its $129 heart rate monitor in the United States in February after launching in Europe last fall.

Sršen said the company is in the process of developing more features and the app will eventually include blood pressure, nutrition and activity trackers.

The latest update is only available to the app’s iOS users. Sršen said a similar update would roll out to the Android version of the app, which is still in beta version, this summer.

Want to keep track of your baby’s progress the old-fashion way? Download our cheat sheet to keep track of all your pregnancy “firsts”.

Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests
Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests
Your First Prenatal Visit and Tests

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