Parenting

When Are Kids Ready For Chores?

2:30

The Merriam-Webster definition of the word “chore” is: A small job done regularly, or a dull, unpleasant, or difficult job or experience. I’d have to agree that household chores are oftentimes both. Whether we like them or not – someone has to do them.

Many parents end up doing all the chores around the house because it’s easier than trying to get their children to pitch in and help. By the time you explain to a child what needs to be done and how to do it- you could be finished with all the chores instead of just one.

While that may be appealing from a time management perspective, it doesn’t prepare children to be responsible adults. Self-reliance becomes more of a realistic goal for children when parents are willing to put the work into teaching them simple chores when they are young and expecting more when they are older.

Speaking of realistic, let’s not get all dreamy-eyed with visions of our little ones cheerfully picking up their toys and putting them away or making their beds before rushing off to school (at first.) But don’t despair; there are a few “tricks” that can make this experience a little easier.

Parenting expert Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic website, says we all need to feel needed and to know that we're making a contribution -- even kids. "But they can't feel that way if they don't have chores and make contributions to the family," Fay says.

Roger W. McIntire, University of Maryland psychology professor and author of Raising Good Kids in Tough Times, says, "A child has to have some responsibilities."

That’s all well and good – but how do you get your kids onboard?

Let’s start at the beginning with traps that can sabotage your progress:

Perfection: It’s not attainable – don’t expect it. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. What looks perfect to me may look like a mess to you.  If you want your children committed to doing their chores, a much more relaxed attitude will win them over. Parents that expect perfection typically give up on the teaching aspect, jump in and do the chore themselves. It’s really more of a reflection of the parent than the child’s ability to learn. So breathe, relax and know that it’s going to take time.

Criticism: Criticizing your child’s accomplishment goes hand in hand with expecting perfection. Too often parents focus on what wasn’t done instead of what was done. Don’t be stingy with praise for trying. Encourage your child while the chore is in progress. You want to build positive momentum, especially with young kids.

Inconsistency: You can’t expect your child to learn and want to participate if you’re not dedicated to and enthusiastic about the outcome. Being consistent in what you expect and when you expect it completed helps your child understand their responsibilities in the household. When parents give up, so do their kids. And guess who ends up doing all the chores?

So, we’ve established some pitfalls to avoid… what next?

The “Chores Chart” makes organization easier and tasks clear. 

"Create a list of every job it takes to keep a family going," Fay says. Have kids pick out the chores they'd most like to do. Then create a chart.

First, check that everyone has an age-appropriate chore. Then divide the chart into three columns. One is for the list of chores and whose chore it is; another is for deadlines; the last one is for making a check mark when the chore is done. Put the chart where everyone can see it and let everyone follow through on their own assignments.

Weekends may provide a bit more time to get some of the extra chores done such as laundry, mowing the grass, cleaning the car etc. You can create a “Weekend” chart separate from the daily chores. It may change from weekend to weekend depending on what needs to be done and who is available.

Should you pay your kids to do their chores? Ah, the age old question. There are lots of opinions on this one. You’ll have to decide whether a financial incentive pays off in your family. Some things to consider are, do you believe chores should be more about responsibility and learning household tasks without a monetary reward? Or is learning how to manage money considered a “household task” that needs to be accomplished?

Small children may be less motivated by an allowance and more motivated by positive attention. Older kids may like the idea of earning money that they can spend however they want. You might want to have a list of “extras” that are offered for an allowance.

At what age are children ready to start doing chores? It’s probably younger than you think.

In general, Pantley says, preschoolers can handle one or two simple one-step or two-step jobs. Older children can manage more. Here are her pointers on kids' chores by age:

Chores for children ages 2 to 3:

·      Put toys away

·      Fill pet's food dish

·      Put clothes in hamper

·      Wipe up spills

·      Dust

·      Pile books and magazines

Chores for children ages 4 to 5:

Any of the above chores, plus:

·      Make their bed

·      Empty wastebaskets

·      Bring in mail or newspaper

·      Clear table

·      Pull weeds, if you have a garden

·      Use hand-held vacuum to pick up crumbs

·      Water flowers

·      Unload utensils from dishwasher

·      Wash plastic dishes at sink

·      Fix bowl of cereal

Chores for children ages 6 to 7:

Any of the above chores, plus:

·      Sort laundry

·      Sweep floors

·      Set and clear table

·      Help make and pack lunch

·      Weed and rake leaves

·      Keep bedroom tidy

Chores for children ages 8 to 9:

Any of the above chores, plus:

·      Load dishwasher

·      Put away groceries

·      Vacuum

·      Help make dinner

·      Make own snacks

·      Wash table after meals

·      Put away own laundry

·      Sew buttons

·      Make own breakfast

·      Peel vegetables

·      Cook simple foods, such as toast

·      Mop floor

·      Take pet for a walk

Chores for children ages 10 and older:

Any of the above chores, plus:

·      Unload dishwasher

·      Fold laundry

·      Clean bathroom

·      Wash windows

·      Wash car

·      Cook simple meal with supervision

·      Iron clothes

·      Do laundry

·      Baby-sit younger siblings (with adult in the home)

·      Clean kitchen

·      Change their bed sheets

From this list, you can see there are a variety of chores that a child can help with or learn to do.  As I go through each one, I think about how many of these tasks I could do when I was ready to head off into the world as a young adult. Who knew you could actually do your own laundry?

Source: Annie Stuart, Roy Benaroch, MD, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guest-expert-10/chores-for-children?print=true

Parenting

Kraft Recalls Mac & Cheese Boxed Dinners

1:30

It’s almost a staple in many homes- Kraft’s Macaroni and Cheese boxed dinners. If you’ve purchased a box recently, you should check the codes and manufacturing dates to see if it is one of the dinners being recalled due to pieces of metal in the pasta. 

Kraft Foods Group is voluntarily recalling approximately 242,000 cases of select code dates and manufacturing codes of the Original flavor of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner.

The recalled product is limited to the 7.25-oz. size of the Original flavor of boxed dinner with the "Best When Used By" dates of September 18, 2015 through October 11, 2015, with the code "C2" directly below the date on each individual box. 

The "C2" refers to a specific production line on which the affected product was made.

Some of these products have also been packed in multi-pack units that have a range of different code dates and manufacturing codes on the external packaging (box or shrink-wrap), depending on the package configuration.

Kraft has received eight consumer contacts about this product from the impacted line within this range of code dates and no injuries have been reported. 

Kraft notes on their website that “We deeply regret this situation and apologize to any consumers we have disappointed.”

Consumers who purchased this product should not eat it.  They should return it to the store where purchased for an exchange or full refund.  Consumers also can contact Kraft Foods Consumer Relations at 1-800-816-9432 between 9 am and 6 pm (Eastern) for a full refund.

The recalled products are:

·      7.25 oz. box, Original flavor (Best when used by code date & Mfr. Code – Sept. 18, 2015 C2 through October 11, 2015 C2)

·      3-pack box of those 7.25 oz. boxes, Original flavor  (Best when used by code date & Mfr. Code – Sept. 18, 2015 C2 through October 11, 2015 C2)

·      4-pack shrink-wrap of those 7.25 oz. boxes, Original flavor (Best when used by code date & Mfr. Code – Sept. 18, 2015 C2 through October 11, 2015 C2)

·      5-pack shrink-wrap of those 7.25 oz. boxes, Original flavor (Best when used by code date & Mfr. Code – Sept. 18, 2015 C2 through October 11, 2015 C2)

Kraft adds on their website that “No other sizes, varieties or pasta shapes and no other packaging configurations are included in this recall.  And no products with manufacturing codes other than "C2" below the code date on the individual box are included in this recall.”

The 3,4 and 5-pack boxes also have Sell Unit codes that can be found on the Kraft website listed below. 

For more information you can go to the Kraft News Center at http://newscenter.kraftfoodsgroup.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=253200&p=irol-newsArticle_Print&ID=2026530

 

Parenting

Kitchen Towels Loaded With Harmful Bacteria

2:00

Two of the most used items in kitchens would have to be cloth kitchen towels and paper towels.  According to a new study, they are also the most contaminated objects in your kitchen.

I use both kitchen towels and paper towels – a lot.  I’ve often wondered about cross-contamination depending on what foods I’m preparing for dinner.  Cross-contamination refers to the accidental transfer of potentially hazardous germs from one surface to another.

Preparing meats and poultry always give me cause for concern because of the wrappings (filled with liquid) and all the places I touch after handling them. No matter how many times I wash my hands and the surfaces I’ve touched, I still have to dry my hands and that’s when I usually grab a kitchen towel or a paper towel.

That’s why the results from this study aren’t surprising.

Kansas State University researchers asked 123 people to prepare a recipe using either raw ground beef or chicken, along with a ready-to-eat fruit salad. The participants did the food preparation in a kitchen set up on the campus.

A harmless type of bacteria was placed in the raw beef and chicken in order to trace levels of meat-associated contamination spread during meal preparation.

"First, participants were observed frequently handling towels, including paper towels, even when not using them for drying. Towels were determined to be the most contaminated of all the contact surfaces tested," lead researcher and food safety specialist Jeannie Sneed said in a university news release.

Many participants touched towels before washing their hands or used them after inadequate washing of their hands, she said. Even after they washed their hands properly, the participants reused the towels and re-contaminated their hands, according to the study in the journal Food Protection Trends.

Sneed advises that you wash the cloth towels after using them while preparing a meal, or use paper towels and throw them away after each use.

Her team found that more than 90 percent of the fruit salads prepared by the participants were contaminated with the tracer bacteria. This shows that if the tracer had been a harmful germ such as salmonella, there was a high risk of foodborne illness.

Four out of five participants also left raw meat contamination on the sink faucet, refrigerator, oven and trash container, the study found.

What can you do prevent cross-contamination during meal preparation? The Minnesota Department of Health offers these tips on their website:

During food preparation:

·      Wash hands and surfaces often. Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and counter tops. To prevent this:

·      Wash hands with soap and hot water before and after handling food, and after using the bathroom, changing diapers; or handling pets.

·      Use hot, soapy water and paper towels or clean cloths to wipe up kitchen surfaces or spills.

·      Wash kitchen towels often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.

·      Wash cutting boards, dishes, and counter tops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item.

Cutting boards:

·      Always use a clean cutting board.

·      If possible, use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

·      Once cutting boards become excessively worn or develop hard-to-clean grooves, you should replace them.

Cellphones are another potential source of kitchen cross-contamination, the researchers found. Moreover, many participants used cellphones during meal preparation and didn't clean them properly.

"We often take our cellphones and tablets into the kitchen," Sneed said, "but what about all the other places we take them? Think of how many times you see someone talking on their cellphone in places like the bathroom, where microorganisms such as norovirus and E. coli are commonly found."

If these devices are used in the kitchen, Sneed recommended wiping their surfaces with a disinfectant.

I’ve certainly been guilty of using my cell phone and computer while cooking. With so many recipes just a click away, I’ve been back and forth between the ingredients and the computer countless times. I do clean the keyboard with a disinfectant when I remember – which honestly, isn’t every time.

The study is a good reminder to stay on top of cross-contamination while preparing foods. I’m not sure that there is a way to prepare meats and poultry where every bit of bacteria is removed from preparation surfaces and our hands, but we all can be more aware of cross-contamination and take the extra steps to prevent foodborne illnesses. And don’t forget to wipe down those electronics either!

Sources: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/20150326/kitchen-towels-can-make-you-sick

http://www.health.state.mn.us/foodsafety/clean/xcontamination.html#prep

Parenting

Kidde Recalls 4.6 Million Fire Extinguishers

1:30

A lot of families have fire extinguishers in their homes in case of a small fire. Kidde makes one of the more popular brands and is recalling 4.6 million of their plastic valve disposable fire extinguishers.

A faulty valve component can cause the disposable fire extinguishers not to fully discharge when the lever is repeatedly pressed and released during a fire emergency, posing a risk of injury.

This recall involves 31 models of Kidde disposable fire extinguishers with Zytel® black plastic valves. The recalled extinguishers are red, white or silver and are either ABC or BC rated. The ratings can be found to the right of the nameplate. 

Manufacture dates included in the recall are July 23, 2013 through October 15, 2014. A 10-digit date code is stamped on the side of the cylinder, near the bottom. Digits five through nine represent the day and year of manufacture in DDDYY format.

Date codes for recalled units manufactured in 2013 are XXXX 20413 X through XXXX 36513 X and 2014 are XXXX 00114 X through XXXX 28814 X.

A complete list of the nameplate affixed to the front of the fire extinguishers is located on their website at  www.kidde.com.

Kidde has received 11 reports of the recalled fire extinguishers failing to discharge as expected. No injuries have been reported.

The fire extinguishers were sold at Home Depot, Menards, Walmart and other department, home and hardware stores nationwide, and online from August 2013 through November 2014 for between $18 and $65, and about $200 for model XL 5MR.

Consumers should immediately contact Kidde for a replacement fire extinguisher at Kidde toll-free (855) 283-7991 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or online at www.kidde.com and click on Safety Notice for more information.

Parenting

“Live Long and Prosper”

2:00

Leonard Nimoy, the actor who played the iconic character Spock in the Star Trek television series and films, passed away last week from chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, also known as COPD.  He was 83.

Spock’s Vulcan salute, accompanied with the phrase “live long and prosper”(LLAP), was recognized around the world as a symbol of friendship and good wishes.

So what does the passing of an elderly movie star have to do with kid’s health?  Kids, teens and adults were fans of Nimoy’s beloved character, Mr. Spock. In his final months, he reached out to his fans with a farewell warning. 

Nimoy attributed his COPD to years of smoking, even though he quit three decades ago around the age of 50.  A few months ago he tweeted a simple but cautionary warning to young adults and teens, “Don’t smoke. I did. Wish I never had. LLAP.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, chronic lower respiratory disease, most of it COPD, killed 149,205 Americans in 2013, making it the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Chronic respiratory disease killed more people than accidents, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

I personally know how COPD can slip into your life and kill you, even years after you’ve crushed out your last cigarette butt. My mother died of COPD 20 years after she quit smoking. She smoked from the time she was in her teens till her 60s. While she did live to be in her 80s, many of those years were spent gasping for air and hooked to an oxygen tank. She also warned her kids and grandkids not to smoke. Like so many other teens, they didn’t listen.  Now, they wish they had.

An online article by Forbes’ Matthew Herper, eloquently states the difference in the fictional character of Spock and the man, Leonard Nimoy, and how we can honor both.

“It’s ironic — bitterly so — that a man who became famous playing a character who was the epitome of logic and clear thinking died because of one of humanity’s most illogical flaws: our propensity toward addiction and for risking our health for momentary pleasure. It would be a fitting way to honor him if we could approach the problem of smoking with the kind of logic that Spock would have. As we deal with a whole lot of tobacco-related issues, including how to deal with e-cigarettes which are putatively safer than traditional cigarettes but whose manufacturers seem intent on proving no such thing, we could use some Vulcan clarity.”

As much as the phrase “ this is a teaching moment” has been misused and over used, I think it applies in this case. Many pre-teens, teens and young adults know and appreciate the Spock character and the man who played him all these years. What they probably don’t know much about is what killed him.

As they say, the door is open and this might be an excellent time to talk about smoking with your child. Whether it’s cigarettes, e-cigarettes or chewing tobacco. They are all highly addictive and each holds it’s own serious health issues.  E-cigarettes are still being studied for health complications. More in-depth research is beginning to expose the chemicals used to vaporize the nicotine that is inhaled into a user’s lungs.  The findings are not good.

It’s hard for many kids to care about the possible long-term health effects of something that feels so good at the moment. But irritating symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and loss of stamina will start adding up. If you smoke, you will experience all of these symptoms at some time.

COPD is incurable. There is nothing that can reverse it. Typically it occurs in people 65 and older, however, 2 percent of COPD cases involve men aged 18 to 24 and 3 percent involve women in the same age group. The numbers increase slightly for people aged 25 to 44 with 2 percent of cases in men and 4.1 percent of cases in women.

My niece-in-law died from COPD at the age of 48. She first showed symptoms at age 22 – she started smoking at age 12.

People who have never smoked can develop COPD from second-hand smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust. However, smoking accounts for 9 out of 10 COPD –related deaths.

Now is a good time to use some of Spock’s clarity of details to talk with your child about smoking, whether it’s with cigarettes, e-cigarettes, paperless tobacco, hookahs or anything else that is inhaled into the lungs.

Nimoy’s last tweet reminds us that life is bittersweet, “"A life is like a garden," he wrote. "Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP"

Not smoking doesn’t guarantee a long life, but it certainly helps one live a healthier life and that’s a blessing every child deserves. 

Sources: Matthew Herper, http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2015/02/27/want-to-live-long-and-prosper-dont-smoke/

Kristeen Cherney, http://www.healthline.com/health/copd/age-of-onset#Overview1

 

Parenting

Flour with Added Folic Acid Is Reducing Birth Defects

2:00

Folic acid is a B vitamin that is known to help prevent certain types of birth defects in newborns. In January 1998, the FDA added a requirement that folic acid be added to breads, cereals, and other products that use enriched flour. These fortified foods include most enriched breads, flours, corn meals, rice, noodles, macaroni, and other grain products.

Since then, a new report shows that serious birth defects have fallen 35 percent. While that is certainly wonderful news, a 2014 study found that as many as 25 percent of American women are still not receiving even the minimum amount of recommended folic acid from either their diet or through supplements.

Women who don't get enough folic acid have an elevated risk of giving birth to a child with conditions called neural tube defects, the best known of which is spina bifida, which often causes paralysis.

Health experts began recommending that women of childbearing age take folic acid in 1992 because studies showed that taking 400 micrograms a day could reduce spina bifida and related birth defects by up to 70%.

Doctors now recommend that women who are considering having children start taking folic acid before trying to get pregnant. Since some pregnancies are not necessarily planned, many doctors recommend that women of childbearing age take a daily multivitamin that contains folic acid.

The benefits of folic acid have been researched for quite some time and since food producers began adding folic acid to grains, that simple step has prevented more than 1,300 babies a year from being born with spina bifida or related conditions, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Authors of the new study found that Hispanic women are more likely to have a baby with spina bifida or a similar birth defect.

That's partly because the "masa harina" corn flour used in tortillas and other Hispanic foods isn't fortified with folic acid, the study says. The March of Dimes has petitioned the FDA to require that folic acid be added to corn flour. Adding folic acid to corn flour would prevent another 40 cases of spina bifida or related conditions each year, the report says.

"Even with fortification, there will be some women that do not get the recommended amount of folic acid every day," says Candice Burns Hoffmann, of the CDC's National Centers for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "We still have more work to do."

If you’re considering having a baby, talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant about the benefits of folic acid and how much you may need.

Sources: Liz Szabo, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/01/15/folic-acid-birth-defects/21784019/

http://www.spinabifidaassociation.org

Parenting

An Apple A Day Could Make You Sick

2:00

While having an apple a day is normally considered a healthy food choice, federal investigators have confirmed that there is a correlation between a California apple processing plant and a strain of listeria bacteria responsible for killing seven people and making more than 30 others very sick.

An earlier warning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asked consumers not to eat any pre-packaged, commercially produced caramel apples, including those with other toppings such as nuts, chocolate or sprinkles, until the source of the outbreak was pinpointed. Most of the people infected by listeria fell ill after eating pre-packaged apples.

Reuters reports that tests performed by Food and Drug Administration investigators on samples from the Bidart Bros. processing plant and apples the company supplied to retailers found a connection between the produce and two strains of Listeria monocytogenes responsible for the deadly listeria outbreak.

Bidart Bros., the company supplying the Granny Smith and Gala apples, has issued a voluntary recall of all shipments of the apples – caramel coated or not- still available in the marketplace. The last shipment was made on December 2.

The company advises that consumers should not eat the Granny Smith and Gala apples.  Affected apples can be sold under the brand names “Big B” and “Granny’s Best,” but could also be sold under other brand names or with no brand at all.

Consumers who are buying or have recently purchased Granny Smith or Gala apples should ask their retailers if Bidart Bros. supplied the apples, the company says.

Three other companies – Happy Apples, California Snack Foods and Merb’s Candies – have each announced recalls of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples since news of the contamination began in late December.

Listeria is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. The disease primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns, and adults with weakened immune systems.

According to the Mayo clinic website, symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea.  If listeria spreads into the nervous system, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck, confusion or change on alertness, loss of balance and convulsions.

During pregnancy, a listeria infection is likely to cause only mild signs and symptoms in the mother. The consequences for the baby, however, may be devastating. The baby may die unexpectedly before birth or experience a life-threatening infection within the first few days after birth.

If you have consumed any food that has been recalled or connected with listeria, pay close attention to any possible signs or symptoms. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above – contact your doctor.

Sources: Victoria Cavaliere, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/12/usa-california-listeria-idUSL1N0UR0P120150112

Ashlee Kieler, http://consumerist.com/2015/01/12/california-apple-plant-issues-recall-after-tests-find-link-to-deadly-listeria-contamination/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/listeria-infection/basics/symptoms/con-20031039

Parenting

Recall: Cracker Barrel’s Animated Toy Monkey Due to Burns

1:45

Giggles International is recalling about 13,000 of their Animated Sing Along Monkey toy due to the possibility that the battery compartment can reach temperatures up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, posing a burn hazard for children.

This recall involves Giggles International Animated Sing-Along Monkey toys. The monkey is made of brown and beige plush material and is about 9 inches tall. The toy is designed to hold a songbook titled "5 Little Monkeys" and to sing the song when activated. A red music note is on the bottom of the monkey's right foot and the face of a child with its hands covering its eyes are on the bottom of the money's left foot. Recalled sing-along monkeys were manufactured between 6/7/2014 and 7/5/2014 and have batch code GP1410028.  

The manufacture date in the M/D/YYYY format and batch code are printed on the bottom of a white fabric label attached near the base of the monkey's tail. The monkey toys came in a tan colored box with words "Animated Sing-Along Monkey," "Sing along with me!" and "I play peek-a-boo with you!" on the front. The age advisory "For ages 3+" and the warning that batteries are included are also on the front of the box.

Giggles International has received two reports of toys overheating and melting their battery compartments.

The toy is sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores nationwide from September 2014 to October 2014 for about $25.

Consumers should immediately take the animated monkey away from children, remove the batteries and return the toy to any Cracker Barrel Old Country Store or contact Giggles International for a full refund.

You can contact Giggles International at (800) 738-6018 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at www.LoveMyGiggles.com and click on Recall at the top of the page for more information.

Toy monkey recall

Parenting

Why Do U.S. Birth Rates Continue to Drop?

2:00

An interesting look at the U.S. birth rate was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. In a nut shell, the U.S. birth rate remains at an all-time low, women are waiting longer to have children, teenagers having kids is at a historic low, C-sections are on the decline as well as preterm births, fewer unmarried women are having babies but the birth rate for twins is up by 2 percent.

Let’s look at the breakdown on these noteworthy findings.

While the U.S. birth rate remained at an all-time low in 2013, some experts expect that trend to change as the economy improves.

"By 2016 and 2017, I think we'll start seeing a real comeback," said Dr. Aaron Caughey, chair of obstetrics and gynecology for Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. "While the economy is doing better, you're still going to see a lag effect of about a year, and 2014 is the first year our economy really started to feel like it's getting back to normal."

More than 3.9 millions babies were born in 2013 and while that sounds like a lot, it’s down a little less than 1 percent from the year before.

Along with fewer births, there’s also been a decline in the general fertility rate - by about 1 percent- for women ages 15 to 44, reaching another record all-time low.

Women are waiting longer to start a family. Some experts believe that the economy may be having an impact on that statistic as well. The average age of first motherhood rose to 26 from 25.8 in 2013. Not a huge increase, but an indicator that younger women have a lot going on in their lives and want to wait a little longer before having their first child.

"You had people right out of college having a much harder time getting a first job, and so you're going to see a lot more delay among those people with their first child," Caughey said.

Birth rates for women in their 20s declined to record lows in 2013, but rose for women in their 30s and late 40s. The rate for women in their early 40s was unchanged.

"If you look at the birth rates across age, for women in their 20s, the decline over these births may not be births forgone so much as births delayed," said report co-author Brady Hamilton, a statistician/demographer with the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.

Teens seem to be getting the message that having a child is something they need to think long and hard about. The good news is that the teenage birth rate is at an all-time low. Rates fell for teens in nearly all-ethnic groups by about 10 percent from 2012.

"It is just an absolutely remarkable trend," Hamilton said. "We are reaching record lows, and it's really quite amazing."

What is causing the sharp decline is still up for debate, but Hamilton believes that newer policies and programs may be educating teens better about the dangers to their health and life goals if they become pregnant at too young an age. More access to birth control may also be having an impact.

The jump in twin birth rates by 2 percent is an area for concern for many experts in the health field. 

"Twins have worse outcomes, and we really hope over the next few years we'll be able to see a reduction in that rate," Caughey said. "We really want to encourage people to be more engaged when they are considering fertility treatments, to reduce the risk of any multiple births,"

Twins births may be on the way up, but the triplet and multiple birth rate dropped another 4 percent in 2013.

The CDC’s report also noted these other changes:

•       Preterm birth rate (before 37 weeks) declined in 2013 to 11.39 percent, continuing a steady decrease since 2006. Caughey chalked this up to a drop in late-preterm deliveries.

•       Cesarean delivery rate, which had been stable at 32.8 percent for 2010 through 2012, declined to 32.7 percent of all U.S. births in 2013. "The C-section rate has leveled off at a rate that's too high," Caughey said. "We feel there's a real need for the C-section rate to decline even more."

•       Birth rate for unmarried women fell for the fifth consecutive year, to 44.3 per 1,000 unmarried women ages 15 to 44 in 2013. The rate was 1 percent lower in 2013 than the year before.

Whether it’s the economy, college debt, better education for teens or lower fertility rates, the U.S. birth rate is going down.  If the economy continues to improve over the next couple of years, it’ll be interesting to see if this baby decline changes to a baby boom.

Source: Dennis Thompson, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/news/20150115/us-birth-rate-continues-decline-cdc-reports

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

How can you tell if a skin lesion is a staph infection or a pimple?