Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
Children who were breastfed for much of their infancy may be rewarded with higher scores on intelligence tests at ages 3 and 7, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital. More from Reuters:
Researchers found that for each extra month women reported breastfeeding, their children performed slightly better on those exams – though not on tests of motor skills and memory.
“Given the size of the benefit, I think this should be helpful for women who are trying to make decisions about how long to breastfeed… because there are many factors that go into that decision,” said Dr. Mandy Belfort, who led the study at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“You have to weigh that against the time that it takes, maybe the time that it takes away from work and your other family duties.”
She said the findings support recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups for exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age, followed by a mix of breastfeeding and solid foods.
For their study, Belfort and her colleagues tracked 1,312 Massachusetts women who were recruited while pregnant in 1999 to 2002 and their babies.
Mothers reported if they had ever breastfed, and if so how old their child was when they stopped. The researchers then gave both women and their children standardized intelligence tests.
On language tests given at age three, children in the study scored an average of 103.7. Once the women’s intelligence and other family factors including income were taken into account, the researchers found that each extra month of breastfeeding was tied to a 0.21-point improvement on the exam.
Children who were fed only breast milk for six months scored an average of three points higher on the language test than those who were never breastfed, Belfort and her colleagues write in JAMA Pediatrics.
For intelligence tests that included reading and writing given at age seven, average scores were 112.5 and each extra month of breastfeeding was linked to a 0.35-point improvement.
Those tests take 10 to 20 minutes to complete, and 100 is considered an average score across all children.
Belfort said a parent or teacher probably wouldn’t notice a difference of a few points on a child’s intelligence test.
“I think the importance is more on the level of the whole population or society,” she told Reuters Health.
Image: Breastfeeding newborn, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
A hand transplant program is under development at Boston Children’s Hospital, and researchers say it will lead the field in offering face transplants and other radical surgeries that can greatly improve the quality of life for children. More from NBC News:
The move shows the growing willingness to do transplants to enhance a patient’s life rather than to save it as donated hearts, livers and other organs have done in the past. More than 70 hands and at least 20 faces have been transplanted in adults, and doctors say it’s clear these operations are safe enough to offer to children in certain cases, too.
“We feel that this is justifiable,” said Dr. Amir Taghinia, who will lead the pediatric hand program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“Children will potentially benefit even more from this procedure than adults” because they regrow nerves more quickly and have more problems from prosthetic hands, he said.
Only one hand transplant is known to have been done in a child — a baby in Malaysia in 2000. Because the donor was a twin who died at birth, her sister did not need to take drugs to prevent rejection.
That’s the main risk in offering children hand transplants — the immune-suppressing drugs carry side effects and may raise the risk of cancer over the long term.
However, one independent expert thinks the gains may be worth it in certain cases.
“We understand so much more about immune suppression” that it’s less of a risk to put children on the drugs, said Dr. Simon Horslen, medical director of the liver and intestine transplant program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. “This is never going to be done as an emergency procedure, so the families will have plenty of opportunity to weigh the options.”
Also, a hand can be removed if rejection occurs, and that would not leave the child worse off than before the transplant, Horslen said.
Image: Child’s hand in hospital, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 3rd, 2012
A Nigerian folk remedy in which a lead-based cosmetic is applied to children’s eyelids was identified by doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital as the cause of a case of severe lead poisoning. The discovery has led the hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to release a national warning that some other cultural folk practices might lead to similar incidents. The Boston Globe reports:
[The Nigerian boy's] family believed it would make the boy more attractive and improve his vision. The child suffered no apparent harm, but now the case is prompting an alert from federal health officials about the risk of heavy metal poisoning from folk remedies found in many immigrant cultures.
A report Thursday from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention details the puzzle solved by specialists at Children’s Hospital and highlights the number of cultures, including Asian, African, and Middle Eastern, that use similar products that may contain lead.
CDC officials advised obstetricians, pediatricians, midwives, and other health care professionals to discuss this potential health risk with patients during prenatal and early childhood medical visits.
Lead can harm the brain, kidneys, and nervous system, and children are particularly sensitive. Even low levels of lead can make it hard for them to learn, pay attention, and behave, according to health officials.
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