There's a lot to keep up on when you're a parent (or parent-to-be), whether you're in that exhausted-and-expecting stage, the exhausted-because-you-have-a-newborn stage, or exhausted because you're chasing around your active kiddos. So in case you missed it, here are some of the most noteworthy and news-worthy pregnancy, parenting, health, and safety stories we covered in 2014:
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 became law
Good news from Washington (yes, really!): Thanks to the signing of the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, young kids in child care will now be safer. As Parents deputy editor Diane Debrovner wrote last month, "The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is the primary federal grant program that provides child-care assistance to low-income families. The new law affects child-care centers and individuals who care for children with the support of federal funding, but all children in child care are likely to benefit from the new higher standards."
The government took a stand on circumcision
Few topics are more hot-button that the decision parents of boys must make regarding circumcision. But earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) weighed in on the issue in a draft of guidelines, saying that medical evidence showed the procedure can reduce the risk of HIV, STDs, UTIs, and even some types of cancer. The CDC says circumcision should be covered by health insurers, but still doesn't go so far as to flat-out recommend it to parents.
Too many babies are sleeping with unsafe bedding
A shocking study published in the January 2015 issue of Pediatrics looked at infant bedding use from 1993–2010 and found that more than half of babies fell asleep with potentially hazardous bedding. Another finding: Teen moms were most likely to use soft bedding, altough, as we noted, "the study also found a link between use of bedding and mothers who were younger in general, a minority, or not college educated."
We're making car-seat mistakes from the get-go
Is there a parent among us who hasn't fretted about the car seat being installed correctly? Well, as it turns out, we're right to be worried. A study presented in October at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 93 percent of parents make at least one major mistake (such as a too-loose harness, a too-low retainer clip, or using the wrong harness slot) before they've even driven away from the hospital. And in almost 70 percent of cases, there were mistakes with both the installation of the seat and how baby was positioned in it.
Enterovirus D86, ebola, and flu were—and remain—causes of concern
Three different health threats caught our attention this year: enterovirus D68, which by October had more than 650 confirmed cases, ebola, and influenza. And while, sadly, both enterovirus D68 and ebola caused a loss of life, it's the flu that causes the most harm, killing an estimated 30,000 Americans each year and causing the hospitalization of roughly 20,000 kids under the age of 5.
The EEOC updated its rules regarding discrimination and pregnancy
Unfortunately, accusations of pregnancy discrimination seemed to abound in 2014, from the Supreme Court's hearing of Peggy Young's case to the woman who claims she was fired for needing to take pee breaks. But one bit of good news: for the first time in more than three decades, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new, tougher rules regarding pregnancy discrimination and "related issues" (think breastfeeding and parental leave.) As we reported, one thing the EEOC made clear is that "adjustments may need to be made for pregnant workers—including providing the option of light duty." Furthermore, employers can't force a pregnant employee to take a leave of absence when she's capable of continuing to work.
Yet another study disputed a vaccines-autism link
As we reported last summer, a study published in the August issue of Pediatrics reviewed "a large body of scientific findings and concluded that parents should be reassured about vaccines' safety." The study found no causal relationship between vaccines and autism.
Scientists may have discovered the cause of 40% of pre-term births
In October, we reportde that scientists at Queen Mary University in London "identified the chemical chain of events that they believe causes the preterm premature rupture of the fetal membrane (PPROM)—the condition that accounts for 40 percent of all preterm births." The findings were published in the journal Placenta. Next up—we hope: a treatment that would actually repair the membrane.
The pre-term birth rate in the U.S. is way down
In Novermber, the March of Dimes released its annual Premature Birth Report Card, which revealed that the pre-term birth rate in the United States fell to 11.4 percent—a 17-year low. Good news, to be sure, but the organization stressed that there's still work to be done to ensure more babies are born healthy, and at term. To that end the U.S. received a "C" grade on the report because it missed the group's stated goal of a 9.6 percent preterm birth rate.
The autism rate was lowered to 1 in 68
In March came a shocking new estimate from a CDC report that 1 in 68 kids are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The previous estimate, made two years ago, put the prevalence at 1 in 88. As our Red-Hot Parenting blogger Richard Rende, PhD., wrote, "The estimated prevalence of ASD has gone up tremendously in the last decade, and it is assumed that improved recognition and diagnosis is the primary factor. The implication here is that we have underestimated the true rate of ASD and as such the new data suggest an urgency in mobilizing resources to understand the causes and accelerate the delivery of interventions."
Early Signs of Autism
Image of child in daycare: Shutterstock