Wednesday, August 14th, 2013
The longer a mother breastfeeds, the more impact she has on her baby’s brain development, according to new research published in JAMA Pediatrics. The New York Times has more on the study, which was conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School:
For each additional month a baby was breast-fed, verbal ability was higher at age 3, and verbal and nonverbal I.Q. scores were higher at age 7, the study concluded. The researchers accounted for factors like the mothers’ intelligence and employment, home environment and child care.
“One of the theories as to why breast-fed children tend to have better cognitive development is there are nutrients in breast milk that benefit the baby’s developing brain,” said Dr. Mandy Brown Belfort, a neonatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and lead author of the study.
“Our results support policies that allow women to continue breast-feeding through a year of their child’s life to optimize brain development,” Dr. Belfort said.
Image: Breastfeeding mother, via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 5th, 2013
Half of American new mothers now breastfeed their newborns for the recommended period of at least six months, according to data analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More from Today.com:
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It’s a big increase from just 35 percent in 2000 and is good news for babies and moms alike, as breastfeeding boosts the immune system, may lower the risk of obesity and is even linked with higher intelligence.
“This is great news for the health of our nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers,” said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns get nothing but breastmilk until they are six months old. The AAP recommends that mothers continue to breastfeed, along with giving other food, after six months for at least a year or even longer “as mutually desired by mother and infant.”
Studies show that babies given nothing but breastmilk for the first four months of life have a 72 percent lower risk of severe pneumonia and other lower respiratory tract infections for their first year. If moms stop breastfeeding between four and six months, their babies have four times the risk of pneumonia compared to moms who breastfeed for a year or longer.
Breastmilk contains the nutrients that a newborn baby needs and also transfers disease-fighting antibodies from mother to baby – something that’s very important for the first few months before an infant can be vaccinated. There’s also a growing body of evidence that beneficial bacteria, and perhaps also viruses and fungi, from a mother’s milk and skin can affect her baby’s health.
AAP, breast milk, breastfeeding, cancer, CDC, intelligence, newborns, nutrition, obesity | Categories:
Child Health, Parents News Now, Trends
Thursday, August 1st, 2013
The natural inclination of a child to use hand gestures in addition to verbal language may suggest a heightened cognitive maturity level, according to a new study published in the journal Developmental Psychology. Time.com has more:
In research published in the journal Developmental Psychology, preschoolers and kindergartners who naturally gestured to indicate what they were trying to do showed more self control, an ability associated with cognitive maturity.
The scientists came to this conclusion after testing children for their ability to sort objects according to changing criteria. Even adults have difficulty switching from one set of instructions to another, since the brain automates some aspects of learning to optimize efficiency. Once something is learned, however, it’s a challenge to unlearn and inhibit the reflexive response. That’s why it helps to develop good habits early — whether it’s a golf swing or eating a healthy diet. It’s easier to learn something correctly the first time than it is to unlearn ineffective techniques and relearn better ones.
In the experiment, 41 kids aged 2 to 6 had to place cards in trays. In one round, the tots first had to sort pictures of blue rabbits or red boats by color and then were asked to sort them by the object’s shape, regardless of color. In another game, they had to distinguish pictures of large or small yellow bears either by size or by whether teddy was right side up or sideways.
During the task, some of the children instinctively used gestures — making rabbit ears when they knew shape mattered, or moving their palms from facing up to turning sideways when they were sorting by the teddy bear’s orientation — to guide themselves.
“Our study shows that young children’s gesturing can help them think,” says the study’s lead author Patricia Miller, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University. What’s more, she found that this effect had a stronger effect on successful performance than age — a powerful finding given that children’s skills improve rapidly with age during this stage of development.
Image: Child pointing, via Shutterstock
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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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Friday, February 3rd, 2012
ΩUnder the inspiring headline “Nicer Moms Have Smarter Kids,” CafeMom.com reports on a new research study that finds showing affection to children actually helps develop the part of their brain that is involved with stress, learning, and memory:
This research came from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. It says that school-age children whose mothers, fathers, and caretakers “nurtured them early in life have brains with a larger hippocampus,” which is the part of the brain that aids in learning, memory, and your response to stress.
The author of the study, Joan L. Luby, M.D., says it best:
I think the public health implications suggest that we should pay more attention to parents’ nurturing, and we should do what we can as a society to foster these skills because clearly nurturing has a very, very big impact on later development.
Image: Mother holding baby, via Shutterstock.
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