Your Baby

Co-sleeping Infant Deaths on the Rise

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Some parents prefer the closeness of sleeping with their infant during naps and through the night; often called co-sleeping, bed sharing or family bed. However, the facts support that using a crib is much safer for baby.

Texas, like some other states, is seeing a dramatic rise in infant deaths related to co-sleeping. So far this year in Texas, there have been 164 cases reported, which is on pace to surpass the record of 174 co-sleeping deaths investigated by CPS in 2011.

The state has responded by launching a $100,000 ad campaign to discourage co-sleeping between parents and babies.

“The main message is we want parents to create a safe sleeping environment for their babies,” said Paul Zimmerman, media specialist with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).

Children under one year old are at the most risk of dying during co-sleeping according to the DFPS. Of the 164 deaths reported so far in 2014, 160 were under one.

Babies aren’t strong enough to move themselves if they end up face down in a pillow, blanket, arm or chest.  The most common cause of death during co-sleeping is when the parent accidently rolls over on the child.

The DFPS website provides the “ABCs of Infant Sleep.”

  • A - Babies should sleep alone.
  • B - On their backs with no blankets or bedding.
  • C  - In a crib and cool (70 degrees).
  • S  - In a smoke-free environment.

“These are preventable tragedies, and risk can be minimized when parents/caregivers follow some common sense do’s and don’ts,” Zimmerman said.

Other suggestions to help avoid infant suffocation are on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) website. 

  • Place your baby on a firm mattress, covered by a fitted sheet that meets current safety standards. For more about crib safety standards, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.
  • Place the crib in an area that is always smoke - free.
  • Don’t place babies to sleep on adult beds, chairs, sofas, waterbeds, pillows, or cushions.
  • Toys and other soft bedding, including fluffy blankets, comforters, pillows, stuffed animals, bumper pads, and wedges should not be placed in the crib with the baby.
  • Loose bedding, such as sheets and blankets, should not be used as these items can impair the infant’s ability to breathe if they are close to his or her face. Sleep clothing, such as sleepers, sleep sacks, and wearable blankets are better alternatives to blankets.

Co-sleeping advocates say that there are benefits to sharing the bed with an infant such as babies go to sleep quicker and sleep longer. Breastfeeding is easier and mothers are more rested. They often recommend the same safeguards such as a firm mattress and no toys or pillows.

Pediatricians and other childhood health experts, on the other hand, believe that co-sleeping is too risky and that these types of infant deaths are totally avoidable by placing a crib or a bassinette next to the bed instead.

Sources: Blake Ursch, http://lubbockonline.com/health/2014-07-04/texas-launches-campaign-curb-infant-sleeping-deaths#.U8ghVRZUMpE

http://www.healthychildren.org

http://www.dfps.state.tx.us

Your Baby

Recall: 3.7 Million Graco Child Car Seats

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Graco is voluntarily recalling 3.7 million child car seats because the harness buckle can become stuck and difficult to release.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced Tuesday that Graco is recalling 11 of 18 model seats that the government agency had asked it to recall.

The NHTSA said the red release button in the center of the harness can become difficult to release and become stuck. Concern is that the stuck latch can make it difficult or impossible to remove the child quickly in an emergency.

Graco said it found that "that food and dried liquids can make some harness buckles progressively more difficult to open over time or become stuck in the latched position."

In a statement, Graco said the voluntary recall affects "harness buckles used on all toddler convertible car seats and harnessed booster seats manufactured from 2009 to July 2013."

"This is not a new issue for us," Graco spokeswoman Ashley Mowrey said, noting that all products sold since July don't have the same problem. "We've been working to help consumers for some time now."

The children's products company added that it was offering a "new and improved replacement harness buckle to affected customers at no cost." People can obtain one by calling 800-345-4109 or emailing consumerservices@gracobaby.com.

Graco’s website also offers tips for cleaning the harness buckle on its website:

  • To clean your buckle, turn the restraint over and push the retainer through the harness strap slot.  Place the buckle in a cup of warm water and gently agitate the buckle, pressing the red button several times while it is in the water. 
  • Do not submerge the harness webbing and do not use soaps or lubricants, only rinse the harness buckle with warm water.
  • Shake out the excess water and allow the harness buckle to air dry.
  • Reattach the harness buckle into the same slot and re-check harness for correct installation according to the car seat manual before use.

The website also has a video online to show consumers how to replace the harness button.

The NHTSA is still investigating Graco’s 7 remaining car seat models to determine if they should be recalled as well.

Graco believes parents should clean the harness button and continue to use the product until a replacement button arrives.

"This does not, in any way, affect the performance of the car seat or the effectiveness of the buckle to restrain a child," the company said.

However, The NHTSA said it "encourages parents and caregivers to consider acquiring an alternative car seat for transporting children until their Graco seat is fixed."

Graco says that no injuries associated with the recalled car seats have been reported.

The recall models include these toddler convertible car seats:

  • The Cozy Cline
  • Comfort Sport
  • Classic Ride 50
  • My Ride 65
  • My Ride 65 with Safety Surround
  • My Ride 70
  • Size4Me 70
  • My Size 70
  • Head Wise 70
  • Smart Seat.

The harnessed booster seats that are part of the recall are:

  • Nautilus 3-in-1
  • Nautilus Elite
  • Argos.

According to the government, the seven models that Graco isn't recalling despite being asked to do so by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are all infant seats. Specifically, they are:

  • Snugride,
  • Snugride 30
  • Snugride 32
  • Infant Safe Seat-Step 1
  • Snugride 35
  • Tuetonia 35
  • Snugride Click Connect 40

Asked about these models, Graco's spokeswoman said that any customers with those or other car seats can still call and get a new harness buckle sent to them for free.

"They are not officially recalled; however, customers experiencing any difficulty with their harness buckle can still get a new one," said Mowrey.

Sources: Greg Botelho, Mike Ahlers, http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/11/us/graco-child-seat-recall/

http://blog.gracobaby.com/2014/02/14/top-things-to-know-about-gracos-harness-buckle-recall/

Graco car set recall

Your Baby

Spit-Cleaning Your Infant’s Binky

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Have you ever sucked on your baby’s pacifier to clean it? Many parents have. Babies drop their binkies all the time and if you’re in a hurry or just figure a little spit-cleaning won’t hurt, you’re more likely to stick it in your own mouth and give it a quick once over.

A new study out of Sweden says the spit-cleaning technique may actually help your infant avoid eczema and asthma.

“It was surprising that the effect was so strong,” says pediatric allergist Dr. Bill Hesselmar of Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden, lead author of the study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study involved 136 infants who used a pacifier in their first 6 months. 65 of the infants had parents that reported sucking the pacifier to clean it. In those children, both eczema and asthma were strongly reduced when they were examined at 18 months of age. At 36 months of age, the protective effect remained for eczema but not for asthma.

Scientists didn’t know why the sucking on the baby’s pacifier acted as a protector or whether it was filtering out germs. The technique didn’t have any impact on respiratory illness, meaning that the babies were not more likely to get a cold or the flu from their parents. Common sense would dictate that if you have a cold or the flu or any other contagious condition, then it’s not a good idea to suck on your baby’s binky. Otherwise, maybe it’s not such a bad idea.

Why is sucking on your infant’s pacifier possibly helpful in preventing asthma or eczema in your child? Scientists hypothesize that tiny organisms in the saliva of the parents may be why. Parent’s saliva introduces gut micoflora that live in the digestive tract of the baby. “We know that if infants have diverse microflora in the gut, then children will have less allergy and less eczema,” says Hesselmar. “When parents suck on the pacifier, they are transferring microflora to the child.”

Many pediatricians and family doctors are concerned that children are being “excessively cleaned” into illness. With anti-bacterial soaps and swipes being used on everything, and kids not allowed to get dirty, their immune system isn’t getting the workout it needs to help fight off common illnesses. The bacterial microorganisms provided in the parent’s saliva might help stimulate the baby’s immune system.

“The most exciting result was the eczema,” says Christine Johnson, chair of the public health department at Detroit’s Henry Ford Hospital. “I’m a bit more skeptical about the asthma findings because asthma is hard to measure before a child is five or six years old.”

Hesselmar also urges moms to lick the baby’s pacifier if their child was delivered by C-section. Vaginal delivered babies receive quite a bit of microbes during delivery. C-section babies can be more prone to allergies. “If they are using a pacifier and those parents think it’s OK to suck on the pacifier, then yes, I would recommend it,” Hesselmar says.

Some parents may find the idea of picking up a pacifier that’s fallen on the floor and putting it in their mouth kind of disgusting. That’s fine, there’s no need to worry about it. If the idea doesn’t bother you, all the better says Hesselmar, “I haven’t heard of anyone getting ill from it,” he says. “There isn’t much bacteria on the floor.”

Source: Barbara Mantel, http://www.today.com/moms/why-it-may-be-ok-spit-clean-your-babys-binkie-6C9773378

Your Baby

The Pros and Cons of Circumcision

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If you’re the parent of a newborn boy, you’ll most likely be asked whether or not you want to have your little one circumcised.  It’s a decision that parents have been making for a very long time.  Hieroglyphs from before 2300 BCE depicting circumcision show that the procedure was practiced in ancient Egypt before 2300 BCE.

Circumcision is a medical procedure where the foreskin of a male newborn’s penis is removed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) currently takes a neutral position on the necessity of the procedure, but in 1999, they issued a landmark statement recommending against routine circumcision of boys. In 2011, the AAP soften that stance and advised parents to consult with their pediatrician and to consider their religious and cultural traditions when making a decision on the surgery.

So, you can see that even experts have gone back and forth over whether the surgery is actually medically necessary.

Discussing the AAP’s stand, Marjorie Milici, MD, a pediatrician at Baylor Pediatric Center in Dallas says  “They are now neutral on the issue. They swing the pendulum back and forth every few years.”

Dr. Milici also says she has seen a significant drop in routine circumcisions since she began practicing medicine 18 years ago. “When I first started practicing, almost everyone was getting it done,” she says. “Now it’s 50-50.”

What are the benefits of circumcision? Research has shown that there are health advantages. Boys with a circumcision penis are less likely to get urinary-tract infections and penile cancer, and they are also at decreased risk for acquiring the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis and HIV. Studies have suggested that these conditions may appear more frequently in uncircumcised men because of the additional effort that is required to keep the foreskin clean.

On the other hand, Milici says the risk of these diseases is very small in uncircumcised men who take good care of their foreskin so it should not be a major consideration when deciding whether to circumcise. “We’re reinforcing that to the bigger boys and parents bathing littler boys,” Milici says.

There are some risks associated with the surgery such as bleeding and infection. Pain is also a consideration. Local anesthetics are typically given to infants before the circumcision, but the days during the healing process can cause soreness.

Tradition can play an important role in choosing circumcision. People who practice Judaism choose circumcision for religious reasons. Still others want their sons to have the procedure so they can look like other men in their family. “It can be sort of a rite of passage,” Milici says.

Circumcision surgery on infants can ignite heated debates. People who oppose circumcision believe that the procedure is a mutilation of the body and offers no health benefits.  People who support the procedure believe it is safe and offers a number of health benefits and better hygiene.

Parents-to-be should decide whether they do or do not want their infant boy circumcised before the baby arrives. Consultations with a pediatrician are recommended well before the baby is born so that parents have plenty of time to do their own research and discover what decision is best for them and their child.

Source: Jennifer Acosta Scott,  http://www.everydayhealth.com/kids-health/the-pros-and-cons-of-circumcision.aspx

Your Baby

Tips to Help Soothe Baby’s Eczema

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Wintertime is the worst time of the year for dry, itchy skin. The cold air outside and indoor heating suck all the moisture out of the air and out of your baby’s skin. Winter is when eczema tends to rear its ugly scales.

If your child is itching and scratching all the time and has patches of scaly skin then he or she may have eczema. All the scratching is truly heartbreaking when your little one can’t seem to stop even when it leads to bloody fingers and sores. Fortunately there are several eczema treatments that can offer relief for your baby.

A lot of people think that bathing a baby every day will actually cause the baby’s skin to be drier, but the opposite is true. Baths add moisture to dry skin and get rid of surface bacteria that can cause skin infections.

“It can be fun for baby, and it's good for bonding with the parents,” says Amy S. Paller, MD, professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. “It's a wonderful way to get hydration into the skin.”

The type of soap you use is important. Make sure that it is fragrance-free, mild or try a soap-less cleanser for sensitive skin. Bathe your baby for five to 10 minutes in tepid water, pat her dry to retain some moisture on her skin, then apply moisturizer.

Moisturize your baby’s skin as least twice a day.  Dry skin can make eczema worse and bring out more inflammation, says Lawrence F. Eichenfield, MD, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. Moisturizing often helps break what he calls “the itch-scratch cycle.”

Creams and ointments are thicker than lotions and work better on your baby’s skin. If your doctor has prescribed an anti-itch cream, apply it before the moisturizer.

Different seasons require different types of moisturizers as well. A lighter cream is best in the summer and petroleum based ointments work best in the winter. Use caution when considering “natural” or organic products. Many of these products contain oil extracts and fragrance of flowers that some babies may be sensitive to. Check with your doctor about well-proven products that have been tested for sensitivities.

One particular bath that may sound too harsh but is actually very effective in treating eczema is the diluted-bleach bath. Nanette Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric dermatology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City, suggests diluted bleach baths for babies over 6 months who have moderate or severe eczema. They’re especially helpful if your baby has crusting on the skin. Bleach helps remove staph bacteria -- a known eczema trigger -- without resorting to antibiotics. Talk to your pediatrician before giving your baby a bleach bath.

Use 1 teaspoon of bleach per 1 gallon of water or ¼ cup per full bathtub.

Many parents whose children have eczema put anti-scratch mittens on them, They can be very helpful in keeping babies from scratching, but not so much so for older babies and toddlers who can take them off. To reduce irritation, keep your child’s fingernails cut short and filed with an emery board, so they’re not sharp. If you notice your child scratching more than usual, take her to the doctor, who can prescribe anti-itch medicine.

Dress your baby in layers of soft, loose-fitting, breathable cotton to keep her skin comfortable. At night, however, it may help to swaddle your infant in a cotton blanket. Swaddling helps many babies sleep better.

Avoiding eczema triggers is key to helping your baby stay comfortable.

  • Fragrances. Products with fragrance can cause reactions. Use unscented products whenever possible.
  • Detergents. Ask your pediatric dermatologist to recommend a gentle, fragrance-free laundry detergent.
  • Rough fabrics. Consider your wardrobe, too -- change out of a wool sweater before cuddling your baby.
  • Saliva. Babies who drool when eating or sleeping can get rashes on their faces, because saliva can irritate sensitive skin. Put Vaseline on her cheeks before mealtime or naptime to create a barrier between the saliva and her skin.

The good news is that many children will grow out of their eczema when they reach their teens. At this time, eczema isn’t curable, but it can be managed and your baby can be more comfortable.

Source: Lisa Fields, http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/eczema/treatment-11/soothe-baby-eczema

Your Baby

Do Helmets Correct “Flat Head” Syndrome?

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The good news is that more parents are placing their babies are their back to sleep therefore reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).  The risk of SIDS is much higher for babies who sleep on their side or stomach. These positions can put your baby’s face directly into the mattress or sleeping area causing them to suffocate.

One side effect from following this important habit for baby’s safety, is that the number of babies with what’s known as "flat head" syndrome has increased. 

One controversial treatment for treating flat head syndrome has been for the baby to wear a specially constructed helmet. These helmets are typically expensive.

A new study has looked at whether the helmets are actually effective and determined that they are about as good as letting the baby’s head naturally reshape. 

Researchers in the Netherlands looked at 84 babies who had moderate to severe flattening of the head. Starting when they were 6 months old, half of the babies wore a custom-made, rigid, closely fitting helmet for 23 hours a day over six months. The others received no treatment.

By the time the children were 2 years old, there was no significant difference in the degree of improvement in head shape between the two groups, nor in the number of them who made a full recovery to normal head shape -- 25.6 percent of those who wore helmets and 22.5 percent of those who did not, according to a journal news release.

Babies who wore the helmets also experienced side effects such as skin irritation (96%), an unpleasant smell (76%) and pain (33%). Cuddling with the baby was noted as being more difficult as well.

When the children reached 2 years of age, parents in both groups reported that they were generally satisfied with the shape of their child's head. Among parents whose babies wore helmets, the average satisfaction score was 4.6 out of 5, and among those whose babies had not received the treatment the score was 4.4 out of 5, the study found.

"Based on the effectiveness of helmet therapy, and the high prevalence of side effects and high costs, we discourage the use of a helmet as a standard treatment for healthy infants with moderate to severe skull deformation," concluded researcher Renske van Wijk, at the University of Twente, in Enschede, and colleagues.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that the majority of flat head syndrome cases can be treated with physical therapy and other noninvasive measures.

The study was published in the online edition of BMJ.

If your baby’s head has become misshapen from lying on his or her back, talk with your family doctor or pediatrician about what therapies might be helpful as your little grows out of the infant stage.

It’s still very important to make sure your infant sleeps on his or her back.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20140502/helmets-not-helpful-for-babies-with-flat-head-syndrome-study

Your Baby

Fussy Baby: Walking or Rocking Most Calming?

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When your baby cries should you pick him or her up and walk or find a good rocking chair and rock back and forth? A new study from Japan says that infants respond best when mom (or any caregiver) picks them up and walks around.

Researchers said that the babies’ rapidly beating hearts also slowed down, proving that they felt calmer.

"Infants become calm and relaxed when they are carried by their mother” said study researcher Dr. Kumi Kuroda, who investigates social behavior at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Saitama, Japan. Interestingly, the study also observed the same response in baby mice.

For the study, researchers monitored the responses of 12 healthy infants ages 1 month to 6 months. The scientists wanted to discover the most effective way for mothers to calm a crying baby over a 30-second period — simply holding the baby or carrying the infant while walking.

Results showed that infants carried by walking mothers were the most relaxed and soothed compared to babies whose mothers sat in a chair and held them. As a mother stood up with her cradled her baby and started to walk, scientists observed an automatic change in the baby’s behavior.  

These results held even after the researchers took into account other factors, such as the child's age and sex, and the mother's age and walking speed.

Kuroda said she was surprised by the strength of the calming effect. Researchers noted that the rhythm of walking might be more effective in soothing infants than any other rhythmic motion, including rocking.

Babies cry for a variety of reasons. If an infant is hungry or in pain, they’ll most likely start crying again when they are laid back down. But sometimes a baby just feels a little anxious or unsure about their environment and will relax when held close and comforted. Kuroda acknowledged carrying might not completely stop the crying, but it may prevent parents from becoming frustrated by a crying infant.

The findings may also have implications for the parenting technique of letting babies cry in order to help them learn how to “soothe themselves”.

"Our study suggests why some babies do not respond well to the 'cry-it-out' parenting method," Kuroda said.

Babies crying during separation and maternal carrying are both built-in mechanisms for infant survival. These behaviors have been hard-wired for millions of years. "Changing these reactions would be possible as infants are flexible, but it may take time," she said.

While the study looked at a baby’s response to its mother, Kudro said the calming effect was not specific to moms. Dads, grandparents and caregivers were able to provide the same calming effect by carrying the baby and walking

Many moms and dads instinctively know to pick up a baby that’s crying, hold them close, pace around while gently patting baby on the back. This study just points out that if your baby is really upset, walking about may have a faster calming effect than rocking or sitting in a chair.  Plus it adds more evidence that simply ignoring a baby while he or she cries isn’t going to teach them how to soothe themselves. We all need a hug and a gentle pat on the back when we’re upset. Babies need it maybe even a little more.

The study was published online in the journal Current Biology.

Source: Carl Nierenberg, http://www.today.com/moms/carry-study-finds-its-good-

Your Baby

From Breast to Bottle; An Adventure

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Ah yes, I remember breastfeeding my baby.

As a young and somewhat naïve mother, it was like stepping onto foreign soil. A place I’d never visited before.

For me, the most unexpected part of this ancient ritual was how painful it was at first.  I’d heard about the bonding it would bring, the day and night hours required and how if I ate certain foods before feeding, my baby could end up with a bad bout of gas.

However, no one mentioned that it was going to hurt like crazy until my nipples “toughened up,” (as my doctor was fond of saying) or how my breasts would become milk waterfalls cascading through my blouse while grocery shopping. Eventually, I got the hang of it and it began to feel like a natural extension of being a mom.

When it came time to transition to bottle-feeding, I actually felt a little sad about letting go of what had become a special time with my baby girl. Her fuzzy little head resting against my breast and her curious eyes watching my every expression as she ate.  We had a lot of one-sided conversations with me telling her about my day and her sucking, burping and falling asleep.

Alas though, one cannot breastfeed forever. So I began again with learning how to keep my baby well nourished while trying to figure out how much formula to give her and how to warm a bottle without scalding us both.

I breastfed for about 5 months – give or take a few weeks. Making the changeover left me feeling a little guilty. My little one seemed to really dislike the replacement bottle, so we did it in stages. I also added breast milk to the bottle at first so she would recognize the taste. It was not a smooth transition.

We ultimately came to an agreement that she would drink from the bottle if I would rock her and sing to her and make funny faces. Another caveat was we’d have to do it in short spurts of time – she would refuse-then accept, refuse-accept. I think it was so that she could feel like she had a little control over the whole unsettling situation. Agreed.

Shortly after we started working on the bottle arrangement, my pediatrician suggested that adding small amounts of solid foods to her diet might also be helpful in weaning her off the breasts.

My first response to this perfectly sane idea was... “What real foods? Biscuits and gravy? Scrambled eggs and toast? Shouldn’t I put these foods in a blender or something? I don’t think she can eat them straight-up.”

“Uh, no” she responded calmly. “Let’s start with a small amount of baby cereal.”

And so, a new tradition began. Here’s how it went.

Make a little baby cereal. Put it on a tiny little spoon and attempt to delicately get it in her tightly shut mouth.

Taste the baby cereal (to make sure it is not too hot, not too cold.)

Stir cereal and try again to get the itty-bitty spoon into her itty-bitty securely shut mouth.

Lead by example.

“Watch mommy. This is really good cereal. Mmmm – I think this is the best cereal I’ve ever eaten.” Actually it’s not bad.

Stick finger in cereal and rub on baby’s squeezed tight-as-a drum, never to be opened mouth.

Switch to a much larger spoon and start scooping.

“You’re missing out on some amazing cereal, sweetie. Yum, yum, yum.”

Repeat as necessary.

“Oh look… it’s all gone. Good job!”

It took awhile to finally make the switch from breast to bottle. It was quite an experience for both of us. Two important goals were eventually accomplished; my sweet baby survived and flourished and my breasts’ finally quit hurting.

If you’re breastfeeding, someday you’ll introduce a bottle, sippy-cup or spoon to your child. Expect a battle, it’s ok. Keep a grip on patience and humor. You’ll need them both.

Warm compresses can ease the discomfort of sore breasts and gradually nursing or pumping less will signal your body to stop producing copious amounts of milk.

I’d recommend keeping a small towel in your purse (speaking from experience.) You might also want to stash an extra shirt in the car – and a bra -just sayin.

And you know what? You can ask for help. Have daddy or grandparents, other family members or good friends hold the bottle and make funny faces. Sometimes it actually helps to have someone without your familiar breasts, smell and voice take part in introducing the bottle to your baby.

Every mother who has breastfed has her own stories to tell when it came time to wean her infant. You’ll have yours and most likely you’ll smile and say softly – Ah yes, I remember breastfeeding (and baby cereal). 

Your Baby

Should Women Eat Fish While Pregnant?

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Fish are high in several beneficial nutrients, including some that are related to healthy brain development. But several organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), recommend that women who are pregnant limit the amount of fish they eat.

The reason is that most fish and shellfish contain low-levels of methylmercury.

Almost all people have at least trace amounts of methylmercury in their tissues, reflecting the organic compound’s widespread presence in the environment. Fetuses, infants and children are the most vulnerable to the possible adverse effects of mercury exposure.

One of the major concerns of the medical community and mothers-to-be is the possibility of a link between eating fish that contains mercury, and their child developing autism.  

A new study addresses that concern and says that children exposed to low levels of mercury in the womb because their mothers ate large amounts of fish, don’t appear to be at an increased risk for autism.

The new findings from more than 30 years of research in the Republic of Seychelles -- a group of islands in the western Indian Ocean -- found no such link, the study authors said.

"This study shows no evidence of a correlation between low level mercury exposure and autism spectrum-like behaviors among children whose mothers ate, on average, up to 12 meals of fish each week during pregnancy," study lead author Edwin van Wijngaarden, associate professor in the public health sciences department at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said in a medical center news release.

"These findings contribute to the growing body of literature that suggest that exposure to the chemical does not play an important role in the onset of these behaviors," he added.

One autism expert added a note of caution, however.

"The study found no link between high mercury levels and later autism spectrum disorder behaviors. However, this should not be taken to mean that high levels of mercury are safe to ingest," said Alycia Hallday, senior director of environmental and clinical science at the advocacy group Autism Speaks.

"Other studies comparing this [Seychelles] cohort to those in other parts of the world indicate that this cohort may be spared from many adverse effects because it is consumed with nutrient-rich ocean fish," she explained.

For the study, the researchers initially determined the level of prenatal mercury exposure by analyzing the mothers' hair samples. Then the researchers used two questionnaires -- one given to parents, the other to the children's teachers -- to see if the children showed signs of autism spectrum-like behaviors. The tests included questions on language skills, communication skills and repetitive behaviors. While the tests don't give a definitive diagnosis, they are used widely in the United States as an initial screening tool and may indicate the need for additional testing, the researchers said.

The study also noted the concerns of and limitations recommended by the FDA and other organizations.

"This study shows no consistent association in children with mothers with mercury levels that were six to 10 times higher than those found in the U.S. and Europe. This is a sentinel population and if (the association between low-level mercury exposure and autism) does not exist here than it probably does not exist," Philip Davidson, principal investigator of the Seychelles Child Development Study and professor emeritus in pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in the news release.

The finding lends support to an emerging belief that the good may outweigh the possible bad when it comes to eating fish during pregnancy. Specifically, if the mercury did not harm brain development at the levels of exposure experienced by the children in this study, then the benefits of the nutrients in fish may counteract or surpass the potential negative effects of mercury, the study authors said.

So, which fish have “low” or “high” mercury content? The American Pregnancy Association provides this list on their website.

Highest Mercury

AVOID

  • Marlin
  • Orange roughy
  • Tilefish
  • Swordfish
  • Shark
  • Mackerel (king)
  • Tuna (bigeye, Ahi)

High Mercury

Eat no more than three 6-oz servings per month

  • Sea Bass (Chilean)
  • Bluefish
  • Grouper
  • Mackerel (Spanish, Gulf)
  • Tuna (canned, white albacore) See tuna chart below
  • Tuna (Yellow fin)

Lower Mercury

Eat no more than six 6-oz servings per month

  • Bass (Striped, Black)
  • Carp
  • Cod (Alaskan)
  • Croaker (White Pacific)
  • Halibut ( Pacific and Atlantic) Jacksmelt ( Silverside)
  • Lobster
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Monkfish
  • Perch (freshwater)
  • Sablefish
  • Skate
  • Snapper
  • Sea Trout (Weakfish)
  • Tuna (canned, chunk light)
  • Tuna (Skipjack)

Lowest Mercury

Enjoy two 6-oz servings per week

  • Anchovies
  • Butterfish
  • Catfish
  • Clam
  • Crab (Domestic)
  • Crawfish/crayfish
  • Croaker
  • Flounder
  • Haddock
  • Hake
  • Herring
  • Mackerel (N Atlantic, Chub)
  • Mullet
  • Oysters
  • Perch (ocean)
  • Plaice
  • Salmon (Canned, Fresh)
  • Sardines
  • Scallops
  • Shad (American)
  • Shrimp
  • Sole
  • Squid (Calamari)
  • Tilapia
  • Trout (freshwater)
  • Whitefish
  • Whiting

The study was published online July 23 in the journal Epidemiology

Sources: http://consumer.healthday.com/pregnancy-information-29/pregnancy-news-543/breaking-brief-7-23-mercury-autism-epidemiology-urmc-release-678533.html

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancyhealth/fishmercury.htm

http://www.epa.gov/hg/effects.htm

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