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Thursday, April 4th, 2013
Doctors are increasingly making the diagnosis of “GERD,” or gastroesophageal reflux disease, in infants, and the label may be prompting parents to medicate for infant issues that pediatricians would otherwise regard as normal, such as crying and spitting up.
A new report published in the journal Pediatrics argues that the use of the disease label is leading to the growing use of medication. “Labeling an otherwise healthy infant as having a “disease” increased parents’ interest in medicating their infant when they were told that medications are ineffective,” the article concludes. “These findings suggest that use of disease labels may promote overtreatment by causing people to believe that ineffective medications are both useful and necessary.”
Previous research has already established the growing number of medical interventions for GERD. One 2010 study by the Food and Drug Administration found that the prescription rate for a particular class of acid blockers increased 11-fold in the years between 2002 and 2009 for babies under age 1.
The new study, which was conducted as a survey of parents in a general pediatric clinic, attributes the rise to the use of the disease label GERD. From the survey’s abstract, “Parents who received a GERD diagnosis were interested in medicating their infant, even when they were told that the medications are likely ineffective. However, parents not given a disease label were interested in medication only when medication effectiveness was not discussed (and hence likely assumed).”
Image: Crying newborn baby, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Babies as young as a year-and-a-half can guess what adults are thinking and demonstrate remarkable empathy and “mind reading,” according to a new global study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society this week. This ability to understand other people’s perspectives, wishes, and feelings had previously been believed not to appear until children are much older. More from LiveScience:
The findings may shed light on the social abilities that differentiate us from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, said study author H. Clark Barrett, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. The study used a form of the false-belief test, one of the few cognitive tasks that young children, but not primates, can do.
Humans are “very good at inferring other people’s mental states: their emotions, their desires and, in this case, their knowledge,” Barrett said. “So it could play an important role in cultural transmission and social learning.”
In the classic test of children’s understanding called the false-belief task, one person comes into a room and puts an object (such as a pair of scissors) into a hiding place. A second person then comes in and puts the scissors into his pocket, unbeknownst to the first individual. When that first person returns, someone will ask the child, “Where do you think the first person will look for the scissors?”
The task is tricky because the children need to have a theory of mind, or an ability to understand other people’s perspectives, in this case that of the individual who didn’t see the scissors being retrieved by another.
By ages 4 to 7, most children in Western countries can answer that the first person will look in the original hiding place, because the individual doesn’t know the scissors have moved. But children across the globe tend to give that answer at different ages.
However, past work showed that if researchers don’t ask babies the question, but instead follow the infants’ eye movements, the children seem to understand the concept much earlier. Barrett and his colleagues wondered whether cultural differences in dealing with adults could be obscuring the amazing cognitive leap children were taking.
Image: Baby and adult, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Fussy infants are more likely to be put in front of a television in a parent’s attempt to calm and occupy them, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The finding is despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation that children not be shown television until age 2. More from Time.com:
In the study, published in the journal Pediatrics, the researchers analyzed data from 217 African-American mother and infant pairs from the Infant Care and Risk of Obesity Study. At 3, 6, 9, 12, and 18 months after birth, the infants’ mothers reported on their babies’ temperament—how fussy or complacent they were—as well as their own TV viewing habits, including how long the TV was on during the day and how often they fed their babies while watching TV. Overall, mothers spent a significant amount of time watching television, and reported that they spent quite a bit of time feeding their infants in front of the TV as well. Infants just 3 months old were exposed to an average of nearly three hours of TV or videos daily, and nearly 40% of the youngsters were exposed to three hours of TV every day by the time they were a year old.
More active and fussier infants were more likely to spend extended periods of time in front of the TV. The exposure was also higher among obese mothers, especially those with the fussier kids, leading the researchers to suggest that the television may serve as an easy entertainment strategy.
The scientists were also able to find some factors that contribute to fewer hours in front of the screen, however. Moms with a high school diploma or any additional education were less likely to have TVs in their infants’ room, and less likely to keep the television on during meals.
“In the last decade or so there has been a lot of attention paid to parenting style and care giving. One component has to do with feeding and focus placed on the feeding environment,” says Margaret E. Bentley, Associate Dean of Global Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health and the principal investigator of the study. “Half of the time, infants are being fed with the television on, which is a feeding strategy we do not recommend.”
Eating in front of the television can lead to unhealthy dining habits that linger into childhood and adulthood, Bentley and her colleagues say, since mothers feeding infants while watching TV might be distracted and not as alert to subtle cues babies send when they feel full, which can lead to overfeeding.
Image: Baby watching television, via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 9th, 2012
Sweden’s government has drafted legislation that would prevent images of babies from appearing in formula ads, the Huffington Post reports. Ads for formula would only be permitted in scientific journals, and free samples or discounts on the product would be prohibited, as well. Supporters cite research lauding the health benefits babies derived from breast milk, including antibodies associated with fewer colds, healthier digestive systems, and decreased likelihood of developing allergies. Critics argue that reiterating the idea that “the breast is best” is harshly judgmental towards women who are unable or choose not to nurse. If the bill is passed, the law would take effect in August 2013.
Image: Baby drinking from bottle via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012
Any parent who has tried to soothe a fussy baby at 30,000 feet knows that flying with little ones is no picnic. It’s even worse when your fellow passengers are less than understanding.
One couple tried an interesting strategy when flying recently with their 14-week-old twins: they passed out candy to everyone on the plane, along with a note explaining that this was the twins’ first flight, reports The Huffington Post’s Lisa Belkin. The note apologized in advance for any crying, and offered earplugs to anyone who needed them.
One passenger posted a photo of the treats on the website Reddit on Sunday with this description: “Brilliant and thoughtful parents handed these out to everyone on my flight.”
The photo sparked instant debate. Within a day, it had attracted more than 3,000 comments and had been viewed more than a million times. Some people praised the gesture and expressed sympathy for the parents, while others stated that babies just don’t belong on planes. Some complained about times that they’d had to sit next to babies who cried or had dirty diapers.
One commenter suggested that the candy was unnecessary. “Really? You don’t find this to be overkill?” papabusche said. “I don’t require an apology for a crying baby on a plane. This is to be expected. I’m ok with it. People have babies, and they need to travel too.”
The subject of children on planes has sparked intense discussion in recent years. Last summer, Malaysia Airline banned babies under age 2 from the first class cabins of its Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A380 superjumbo jets.
Readers, what do you think? Were the treats a smart move, or overkill?
Image: Candy from babies via gigantomachy / Reddit.
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