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Your Baby

Does Your Unborn Baby Hear You?

2.00 to read

More than twenty years ago I remember reading that fetuses can learn to recognize their mothers and father’s voices and then respond to those voices as newborns. I thought… well maybe… but it seemed to me that voices from outside of the womb would sound muffled from inside. Of course, I don’t remember my in utero experience so I don’t really know how words sound.

Over the years though, scientists have continued to examine how and what babies learn before they are born.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland have determined that fetuses not only hear and recognize voices but they can become familiar with different words and different pitches used when saying those words.

The study involved 33 moms-to-be, and examined their babies after birth. While pregnant, 17 mothers listened at a loud volume to a CD with (2), four-minute sequences of the made-up words “tatata” or “tatota.” The words were said with several different pitches. The moms-to-be listened to the recordings beginning at 29 weeks of pregnancy -about 7 months along- until birth. They heard them around 50 to 71 times.

Following birth, researchers tested the babies for normal hearing and then performed an electroencephalograph (EEG) brain scan to see if the newborns would respond to the made-up words and different pitches. And sure enough, the brain scans showed increased activity from the babies who had been listening to the CD in utero when the words were played to them after birth. Not only did they respond to the words, but also seemed to recognize the different pitches used when they heard them.  

The babies born to the mothers who had not listened to the CDs while pregnant showed little reaction to the words or pitches.

 “We have known that fetuses can learn certain sounds from their environment during pregnancy,” Eino Partanen, a doctoral student and lead author on the paper, said via email.

“We can now very easily assess the effects of fetal learning on a very detailed level—like in our study, [we] look at the learning effects to very small changes in the middle of a word.”

Some experts believe the finding shows that not only can a third-trimester fetus hear and recognize voices; he or she can also detect subtle changes and process complex information.

“Interestingly, this prenatal exposure also helped the newborns to detect changes which they were not exposed to: the infants who have received additional prenatal stimulation could also detect loudness changes in pseudo words but the unexposed infants could not,” Partanen says.

“However, both groups did have responses to vowel changes (which are very common in Finnish, and which newborns have been many time previously been shown to be capable of).”

You may be wondering why is it even important that scientists know if fetuses can recognize voices or words.  Partanen says because sounds heard in utero may shape the developing human brain in ways that affect speech and language development after birth.

“The better we know how the fetus’ brain works, the more we’ll know about early development of language,” Partanen says. “If we know better how language develops very early, we may one day be able to develop very early interventions [for babies with abnormal development].” 

An abstract for the Finnish study is published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website.

Does talking and singing to your baby before it’s born actually stimulate his or her brain activity and increase language learning? Some experts say definitely yes, others say it has no impact. But really, most moms and dads enjoy baby bump bonding whether it’s productive or not. And who knows, maybe your pre-born hears you loud and clear. 

Source: Meghan Holohan, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/unborn-babies-are-hearing-you-loud-clear-8C11005474

Your Baby

Thousands of Head Injuries Related to Strollers and Baby Carriers

2:00

According to a new report, between 1990 and 2010, an estimated 316,000 children five years or younger suffered injuries from strollers and baby carriers that were serious enough to land them in the ER.

The analysis found that in 1990, fewer than one in five accidents in strollers or baby carriers resulted in traumatic brain injuries or concussions. But by 2010, 42 percent of children in stroller accidents and 53 percent of babies in carrier accidents who were treated in emergency rooms were found to have suffered a brain injury or concussion.

The higher rate of brain injuries does not necessarily mean that strollers and carriers are more dangerous now than in the 1990s. It could be that physicians and other medical care providers have become more aware of traumatic brain injury and concussion and are reporting these types of injury, said Kristin J. Roberts, the study’s co-author and a research associate in the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

The data showed that the majority of the injuries (55 percent) occurred in children who were younger than 1 year old, and most of the injuries occurred when children fell from a stroller or carrier or when they tipped over. The head and face most commonly took the brunt of the falls.

“It’s not uncommon to see a child who has fallen out of a carrier that was placed on a bed or a child who was not strapped into a stroller,” said Dr. Leslie Dingeldein, a pediatric emergency physician at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.

While the study showed that an average of 17,187 children each year end up in hospital emergency rooms because of stroller and carrier injuries, overall injury rates associated with these accidents declined over the 21-year period studied.

Roberts also noted that the incidences of stroller and carrier accidents might be even higher because the data doesn’t include injuries treated at pediatricians’ offices, private urgent care facilities or at home.

The study authors noted that in 2014, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued updated standards that addressed potential stroller-related hazards such as hinges, brakes, buckles, structural integrity and stability. The new standards went into effect in September of 2015, after the study’s data collection period.

“The good news for parents who rely on strollers and carriers is that new federal mandatory safety standards for these products address many of the risks to children identified in this study,” Elliot Kaye, chairman of the safety commission, said in an email to the New York Times.

The Mayo Clinic offers these safety tips when baby is in a stroller:

•       Stay close. Don't leave your baby unattended in his or her stroller.

•       Be careful with toys. If you hang toys from a stroller bumper bar to entertain your baby, make sure that the toys are securely fastened.

•       Buckle up. Always buckle your baby's harness and seat belt when taking him or her for a stroller ride.

•       Use your brakes. Engage your stroller brakes whenever you stop the stroller.

•       Properly store belongings. Don't hang a bag from the stroller's handle bar, which can make a stroller tip over.

•       Take caution when folding. Keep your baby away from the stroller as you open and fold it, since small fingers can get caught in stroller hinges. Always make sure the stroller is locked open before you put your child in it.

•       Keep it out of the sun. During hot weather, don't let your baby's stroller sit in the sun for long periods of time. This can cause plastic and metal pieces to become hot enough to burn your baby. If you leave the stroller in the sun, check the stroller's surface temperature before placing your baby in the stroller.

•       Check for recalls. Return the stroller warranty card so that you'll be notified in case of a recall. If you're considering a used stroller, make sure the stroller hasn't been recalled.

The report was published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Story sources: Rachel Rabkin Peachman, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/08/17/more-head-injuries-reported-for-babies-in-stroller-accidents/

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/stroller-safety/art-20043967?pg=2

Your Baby

Prenatal Exposure to Traffic Pollution May Lead to Asthma

Exposure to traffic pollution in the womb may cause genetic changes that increase a child's risk of developing asthma say U.S. researchers. The researchers studied the umbilical cord blood from New York City children and found evidence of a possible biomarker, which is an alteration in the gene ACSL3 which is associated with prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAH is created as byproducts of incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels such as gasoline.

PAH levels are high in heavy-traffic areas and exposure to PAHs has been linked to such diseases as cancer and childhood asthma. The findings are published in the February 16, 2009 issue of PLoS One. They offer a potential clue for predicting environmentally-related asthma in children, particularly to those born to mothers who live in high-traffic areas said the researchers. "Understanding early predictors of asthma is an important area of investigation because they represent potential clinical targets for intervention," study co-author Dr. Rachel Miller, director of the asthma project at Mailman's Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health, said in a news release.

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Your Baby

Benefits of Waiting to Clamp the Umbilical Cord

2:00

Could waiting just three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord after childbirth make a difference in your child’s motor and social skills? According to a new Swedish study, children of mothers that delay cord clamping, reap the benefits later in life – especially for boys.

Delaying cord clamping is already known to benefit babies by increasing iron levels in their blood for the first few months of life, researchers write in the most recent edition of JAMA Pediatrics.

“There is quite a lot of brain development just after birth,” said lead author Dr. Ola Andersson of Uppsala University in Sweden. “Iron is needed for that process.”

For the study, researchers followed up on 263 Swedish children born at full term to healthy mothers about four years earlier.

As newborns, the children had been part of a larger study in which a total of 382 babies were randomly assigned to either early cord clamping (within 10 seconds of birth) or late cord clamping (at least three minutes after birth).

Four years later, the children were similarly intelligent regardless of when their cords had been clamped, but there were some notable differences.

“When you just meet a child, you wouldn’t see or notice any differences,” Andersson told Reuters Health. “But we could see the differences in fine motor function.”

The children were tested for IQ, motor skills and behavior. Parents also reported on their children’s communication, problem solving and social skills.

Results of the study showed that overall brain development and behavior scores were similar for both groups, and there was no significant difference in IQ scores.

However, more children in the delayed cord clamping group had a mature pencil grip on the fine motor skills test and better skills on some social aspects compared to those whose cords were clamped early.

Researchers found that boys benefitted much more than girls.

Iron deficiency is much more common among male infants than among females, Andersson said.

“Girls have higher iron stores when they are born,” he said.

Delaying cord clamping by three minutes allows an extra 3.5 ounces of blood to transfuse to the baby, which is equivalent to a half a gallon of blood for an adult, Andersson said.

“There’s a lot of iron in that volume,” he said. “Even three minutes can have quite a lot of effect on the iron in the blood in the body for a long time after birth.”

The new study provides evidence of benefit for full-term babies in a developed country where nutritional deficiency is extremely rare, Andersson said.

“When a baby transitions from inside the womb to outside the womb, if you think about what nature does, it is not to clamp the cord immediately,” said Dr. Heike Rabe of the Brighton and Sussex Medical School and University Hospitals in the UK.

Why do doctors traditionally clamp the cord quickly? About 60 years ago, doctors began clamping the cord almost immediately because it was thought that it would reduce the risk of hemorrhage for the mother. Doctors now know that is not the case.

Even though the scientific understanding behind cord clamping has changed, it’s still difficult for some doctors to change how they’ve always done things.  Today, parents can have more say in how their baby is born and whom they choose to deliver their child.

Parents-to-be should discuss their wishes with their OB/GYN or family doctor ahead of time and weigh the pros and cons of delaying cord clamping for their particular birthing process.

Source: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/26/us-gynecology-pediatrics-cord-neurodevel-idUSKBN0OB2ET20150526

 

 

Your Baby

Singing to Baby in the Womb Decreases Crying After Birth

2:00

There is no shortage of advice for mothers-to-be about what to do once baby arrives. But, there’s something you can do before baby is born to help bring a calmer child into the world. The key is singing to baby while he or she is still in utero, according to a new study.

Researchers divided about 170 pregnant women into two groups; one group sang lullabies in the months immediately before and after birth. The other group did not sing to their baby at all.

They found that babies from the singing group generally cried 18.5 per cent of the time compared to 28.2 per cent of the time in the group who were not sung to.

Meanwhile for those with colic - excessive or frequent crying where there is no ill health - the babies who had enjoyed prenatal lullabies tended to cry for about a quarter of the time.

How well moms and babies were able to bond was also measured after birth. Researchers used a scientific measurement called the Mother-to-Infant Bonding Scale while they also recorded hours of baby sleep, crying incidences and bouts of colic.

In the weeks following birth, the postnatal bonding measurement was a little higher among the singers - 1.96 against 1.28 on the scale.

The authors concluded that: "Mothers singing lullabies could improve maternal-infant bonding. It could also have positive effects on neonatal behavior and maternal stress.”

Babies cry for many reasons. It’s how they communicate hunger, pain, fear, the need to sleep and more.

The most common reason for crying is hunger. Once you recognize the signs of hunger, you can feed before they start. Some signs to watch for are lip smacking, fussiness, putting their hands to their mouths and pushing their heads into your hand or shoulder.

Colic (tummy troubles) is also a common cause of crying. This may come after feeding, so burping the baby is often helpful. If your baby has colic a lot be sure to talk to your pediatrician.

A dirty diaper will trigger crying. This is an easy one to control; check and change often.

Babies need a lot of sleep. Instead of nodding off easily, babies may fuss and cry – especially when they're overtired.

Creating a quiet and warm (but not too warm or hot) room helps, plus rocking baby will often soothe and send them to dreamland. Also, make sure that their clothing is soft. Scratchy blankets or clothes can irritate their tender skin.

And of course, babies cry when they don’t feel well. Discuss what symptoms to look for and the best way to take your little one’s temperature with your pediatrician.

Sometimes, baby just cry and we’re not really sure why, after all, they can’t tell us. They may just want to be held and cuddled. We all like that.

The research was undertaken by the University of Milan and published in the journal Women and Birth.

Story sources: Henry Bodkin, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/03/07/sing-bump-lullabies-babies-womb-decreases-crying/

https://www.babycenter.com/0_12-reasons-babies-cry-and-how-to-soothe-them_9790.bc

 

Your Baby

Spit-Cleaning Your Infant’s Binky

1.45 to read

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

Gut Bacteria Linked to Kid’s Asthma

2:00

Four types of gut bacteria may reduce a child’s risk of developing asthma according to a recent Canadian study.

Most Infants - but not all - typically receive these bacteria from their environment or mothers after birth. Sometimes babies are given antibiotics that not only kill bad bacteria, but eliminating the helpful gut bacteria as well.

"We now have particular markers that seem to predict asthma later in life," lead researcher Brett Finlay, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, said during a news conference Tuesday.

"These findings indicate that bacteria that live in and on us may have a role in asthma," he said. This seems to happen by 3 months of age in ways that still aren't clear.

Previous studies have shown that certain environmental bacteria, such as living on a farm or having pets, appear to decrease the chances of children developing asthma.

Another interesting clue to asthma is what populations seem to have the most cases. Instances of asthma have increased in western countries where hygiene standards are higher. "Ironically, it has not increased in developing countries," Finlay said.

Organizations that specifically track asthma cases around the world say that as developing countries move from poverty into low-to-middle income, cases of childhood asthma begin to increase.

The "hygiene hypothesis," says environments that are too clean may actually impede development of the immune system.

For the study, Finlay and colleagues looked for four types of bacteria in stool samples of 319 infants at 3 months of age. The bacteria are called FLVR (Faecalibacterium, Lachnospira, Veillonella and Rothia).

The researchers found that 22 children with low levels of these bacteria at age 3 months also had low levels at age 1 year.

These 22 children are at the highest risk of developing asthma, and eight have been diagnosed with the respiratory disease so far, the researchers said.

Study co-author Dr. Stuart Turvey, professor of pediatric immunology at the University of British Columbia, said at the news conference that it's "not surprising how important early life is."

In the first 100 days of life, gut makeup influences the immune response that causes or protects kids from asthma, he said.

Turvey also noted that testing infants for these bacteria might help identify children who will be at high risk for asthma. Babies without FLVR bacteria could be followed and treated earlier for better outcomes he said.

Whether giving kids probiotics -- good bacteria -- might reduce asthma risk isn't known, the researchers said. Turvey said the probiotics available in over-the-counter forms do not include the four bacteria identified in this study.

"Studies like ours are identifying specific bacteria combinations that seem to be missing in the children at the highest risk of asthma," he said. "The long-term goal is to see if we could offer these bacteria back, not the general nonspecific probiotics."

Finlay said the findings need to be replicated in larger groups and in different populations. He said the researchers also want to know if all four bacteria are protective, or just one or two.

As with most studies, the results did not prove a cause and effect only a connection, in this case between gut bacteria and asthma risk in children.

The report was published online in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Source: Steven Reinberg, http://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20150930/gut-bacteria-tied-to-asthma-risk-in-kids

 

 

Your Baby

Infant Ear Infections Declining

2:00

Ear infections in infants are very common and can be quite unsettling for parents. The good news is that ear infections among U.S. babies are declining according to a new study.

Researchers found that 46 percent of babies followed between 2008 and 2014 had a middle ear infection by the time they were 1 year old. While that percentage may seem high, it was lower when compared against U.S. studies from the 1980s and '90s, the researchers added. Back then, around 60 percent of babies had suffered an ear infection by their first birthday, the study authors said.

The decline is not surprising, according to lead researcher Dr. Tasnee Chonmaitree, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical Branch, in Galveston.

"This is what we anticipated," she said.

That's in large part because of a vaccine that's been available in recent years: the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, Chonmaitree said. The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine protects against several strains of pneumococcal bacteria, which can cause serious diseases like pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream infections.

Those bacteria are also one of the major causes of children's middle ear infections, Chonmaitree said.

She added that flu shots, which are now recommended for children starting at 6 months, could be helping as well. Many times an ear infection will follow a viral infection such as the flu or a cold.

Vaccinations "could very well be one of the drivers" behind the decline in infant ear infections, agreed Dr. Joseph Bernstein, a pediatric otolaryngologist who wasn't involved in the study.

Other factors could be having a positive impact as well, such as rising rates of breast-feeding and a decrease in babies’ exposure to secondhand smoke.

"The data really do suggest that breast-feeding -- particularly exclusive breast-feeding in the first six months of life -- helps lower the risk of ear infections," said Bernstein, who is director of pediatric otolaryngology at the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, in New York City.

There's also the fact that breast-fed babies are less likely to spend time drinking from a bottle while lying down, Bernstein noted. That position can make some infants more vulnerable to ear infections, he said.

The study findings were based on 367 babies followed during their first year of life. By the age of 3 months, 6 percent had been diagnosed with a middle ear infection; by the age of 12 months, that had risen 46 percent, researchers found.

Breast-fed babies had a lower ear infection risk, however. Those who'd been exclusively breast-fed for at least three months were 60 percent less likely to develop an ear infection in their first six months, the study showed.

But whether babies are breast-fed or not, they will benefit from routine vaccinations, Chonmaitree said. "Parents should make sure they're on schedule with the recommended vaccines," she said.

Parents can have a difficult time recognizing an ear infection in an infant or a child to young to tell them that their ear hurts.

Some symptoms to watch for are:

·      Tugging at the ear

·      Fever

·      Crying more than usual

·      Irritability

·      Child becomes more upset when lying down

·      Difficulty sleeping

·      Diminished appetite

·      Vomiting

·      Diarrhea

·      Pus or fluid draining from ear

Treatment for ear infections rarely requires medication, such as antibiotics, except when an infection is severe or in infants. 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most children with middle ear infections get better without antibiotics, and doctors often recommend pain relievers -- like acetaminophen -- to start. But with babies, Bernstein said, antibiotics are often used right away.

The AAP recommends antibiotics for infants who are 6 months old or younger, and for older babies and toddlers who have moderate to severe ear pain.

The study was published online in the March edition of the journal Pediatrics.

Story source: Amy Norton, http://www.webmd.com/children/news/20160328/infant-ear-infections-becoming-less-common

Your Baby

Babies Can Tell the Difference and Sameness of Objects

1:45

How old are we when we begin to learn to tell when objects are alike or different?  Scientists involved in a new study say that with a little training, babies as young as seven months can discern whether objects are similar or not.

Previous studies have shown that toddlers have this ability, but researchers at Northwestern University, wanted to see if children could actually determine the difference at an even earlier age.  The scientists were the first to discover that infants can actually make this remarkable determination – long before they have the language skills to express abstract ideas.

“This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations,” said study author, Alissa Ferry, a brain development researcher.

To accomplish this, the scientists started out to see if seven--month-old infants could comprehend sameness and difference between two objects by showing them either two Elmo dolls or an Elmo doll and a toy camel until their observation time ran out.

They then had the infants look longer at pairs that were either the “same” or “different,” including test pairs composed of new items. The team saw infants who had learned the “same” relation looked longer at test pairs showing the “different” relation and vice versa. The team said this indicates the infants had figured out the abstract relation and recognized when the relation changed.

“We found that infants are capable of learning these relations,” Ferry said. “Additionally, infants exhibit the same patterns of learning as older children and adults — relational learning benefits from seeing multiple examples of the relation and is impeded when attention is drawn to the individual objects composing the relation.”

The researchers also believe that because the infants could learn the difference and the sameness of objects before they could speak, that this is a separate skill that humans need and develop early in their existence.

“The infants in our study were able to form an abstract same or different relation after seeing only 6-9 examples,” said study author Dedre Gentner, a professor of psychology at Northwestern. “It appears that relational learning is something that humans, even very young humans, are much better at than other primates.”

Source: Brett Smith, http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1113398144/infants-can-compare-and-contrast-objects-study-052715/

 

 

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