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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

Kids of Obese Mothers at Higher Risk for Autism, ADHD

1:45

A new study points out another reason that obesity and pregnancy can be a bad combination not only for the mother but for her future child as well.

Researchers found that six-year-olds whose mothers were severely obese before pregnancy are more likely to have developmental or emotional problems than kids of healthy-weight mothers.

The lead author of the study, Heejoo Jo of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and her team reviewed data on 1,311 mother-child pairs collected between 2005 and 2012, including the mothers’ body mass index (BMI, a height-to-weight ratio) before pregnancy and their reports of the children’s psychosocial difficulties at age six.

The researchers also incorporated the children’s developmental diagnoses and receipt of special needs services.

Kids of moms who were severely obese, with a BMI greater than 35, were twice as likely to have emotional symptoms, problems with peers and total psychosocial difficulties compared to kids of moms who had a healthy BMI, between 18.5 and 25.

Their children were three times as likely to have a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder and more than four time as likely to have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as reported in the journal Pediatrics.

Previous studies have shown a connection with autism and maternal diabetes and obesity.

Researchers took into account pregnancy weight gain, gestational diabetes, breastfeeding duration, postpartum depression and infant birth weight. None of these explained the apparent association.

“We already do know that obesity is related to health problems during pregnancy and throughout the lifetime,” Jo said. “I think this adds to that by suggesting that not only does severe obesity affect a woman’s health but the health of her future children.”

This study could not analyze the mechanism linking severe obesity and later risk for developmental problems, Jo noted.

“One theory that we could not look at and needs further research was some small studies have linked maternal obesity to increased inflammation, which might affect fetal brain development,” she told Reuters Health by phone.

While it sounds cliché because we’ve heard it so much; obesity in America has reached epidemic status. Almost 30 percent of Americans are obese and the prevalence of maternal obesity has risen rapidly in the last two decades.

In the USA, approximately 64% of women of reproductive age are overweight and 35% obese.

Women’s health specialists recommend that obese women considering pregnancy lose weight before they conceive to help reduce health risks for themselves as well as their child.

The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children be screened for developmental delay or disability at nine, 18 and 24 or 30 months of age.

Health experts strongly suggest that women who were obese or severely obese when they became pregnant make sure that their children receive these developmental screenings.

Sources: Kathryn Doyle, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/04/28/us-obese-pregnancy-adhd-kids-idUSKBN0NJ2FC20150428

James R. O'Reilly, Rebecca M. Reynolds, http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/776504

Your Child

Healthier Choices for Students in School Lunch Lines

1:30

School lunches have changed over the years and in many school cafeterias, food options are healthier than ever before, according to a new study.

Elementary school cafeterias are offering more vegetables, fresh fruit, salad bars, whole grains and more healthy pizzas, while the availability of high-fat milks, fried potatoes and regular pizza has decreased, researchers report.

"School food service programs have worked hard to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches, and largely have been very successful," said lead researcher Lindsey Turner, director of the Initiative for Healthy Schools at Boise State University, in Idaho.

Although in some schools food choices are improving, that’s not the case everywhere. Turner noted that more work needs to be done to make sure every student has the same healthy choices in the lunch line.

In the study of more than 4,600 elementary schools that are part of the U.S. National School Lunch Program, researchers found that school lunches improved significantly between 2006-2007 and 2013-2014.

Despite improvements in food choices, disparities were still found. For example, schools in the West were more likely to offer salad bars than schools in the Northeast, Midwest or South, the researchers found.

Schools with a majority of black or Hispanic children were less likely to offer fresh fruit than schools with a preponderance of white students.

Also, schools in poor areas were less likely to offer salads regularly.

Over the course of the study, Midwestern schools slightly reduced offering pre-made salads in favor of salad bars, but Southern schools were more likely to offer pre-made salads and less likely to have salad bars, the researchers found.

On the other side of offering healthier foods is choosing to eat those foods. Just because there are better food options available, doesn’t mean that kids will eat them. One expert noted that it takes time and effort for kids to change their eating habits. It not only has to look good, it has to taste good.

"It is not only important to improve the quality of school lunches but to make these foods attractive, tasty, easily seen and accessible," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center, in New York City.

Studies have found that putting fresh fruit in a nice bowl, in a conveniently located, well-lit area in the school cafeteria increased sales of fruit by 102 percent, she noted.

"A brightly lit, hot-and-cold salad bar filled with colorful fresh fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts, mushroom and spinach pizza, and veggie tacos center-stage in the lunchroom would be very attractive to students and staff alike," Heller said.

This approach works well at home, too, she added.

"Kids are more likely to grab healthy foods like cut-up melon, carrots, peppers, edamame and hummus when they are upfront and easy to grab in the fridge," Heller said.

The study was published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Story source: Steven Reinberg, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/america-s-school-lunches-getting-healthier-study-709097.html

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Your Baby

Eating Chocolate While Pregnant May Improve Mom and Baby’s Health!

1:45

 Put another check in the win column for a reason to eat chocolate - as though anyone really needs one!

 A new study suggests that moms-to-be that eat a small piece of chocolate every day may improve their baby’s cardiovascular health and reduce the risk for preeclampsia.

 Researchers found that their findings held up regardless of whether the chocolate consumed contained high or low amounts of flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant abilities. Various studies have also suggested that flavonoids may offer heart health benefits.

 As with most studies, the research did not prove that eating chocolate during pregnancy caused better circulatory health in pregnant women and their babies, only that there was an association.

 "Our observations suggest that a regular small consumption of dark chocolate -- whether or not the level of flavanol is high -- from the first trimester of pregnancy, could lead to an improvement of placental function," said study author Dr. Emmanuel Bujold. He is a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada.

 Bujold's team decided to see whether differences in flavanol content had any effect on the pregnancies of nearly 130 women.

 All of the women in the study were at the 11- to 14-week mark of their pregnancy, and carrying one child.

 All were instructed to consume 30 grams of chocolate (a little more than one ounce) each day over a 12-week period. That's equivalent to about one small square of chocolate per day, Bujold said.

 Half of the women consumed high-flavanol chocolate, while the other half was given low-flavanol chocolate. All were then tracked until their delivery date.

 Regardless of which type of chocolate was consumed, the women faced the same risk for both preeclampsia and routine high blood pressure. Placental weight and birth weight was also the same in both groups, the investigators found.

 Similarly, fetal and placental blood circulation levels, as well as in-utero blood velocity, did not appear to be affected by shifting flavanol levels.

 However, simply consuming a small amount of chocolate -- no matter what the flavanol content -- was associated with notable improvements in all blood circulation and velocity measures compared to the general population, the researchers said.

 Bujold said this suggests that there's something about chocolate, apart from flavanol levels, that may exert a positive influence on the course of pregnancy. Finding out exactly what that is "could lead to improvement of women's and children's health, along with a significant reduction of treatment cost," he said.

 While that’s good news for chocolate lovers, Bujold cautions that pregnant women keep the portion small and calorie intake low.

 So, a bit of chocolate daily while pregnant is not going to hurt you, in fact it just may give you and your baby’s health a little boost.

 The findings were scheduled for presentation at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine's annual meeting, in Atlanta. The data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

 Source:  Alan Mozes, http://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/food-and-nutrition-news-316/small-square-of-chocolate-each-day-during-pregnancy-may-help-mom-and-baby-707736.html

Parenting

Most Parents Give Their Child the Wrong Medicine Dose

1:30

According to a new study, most parents accidently give their child the wrong dose of liquid medication – sometimes, as much as twice the amount they should have.

The study, conducted at pediatric clinics in New York, Atlanta and Stanford, Calif., also found that most dosing errors occurred when parents used a measuring cup. There were fewer errors when parents measured the dose with an oral syringe.

Pediatric medicines generally rely on liquid formulations, and parents have to decipher a sometimes, bewildering assortment of instructions in different units with varying abbreviations — milliliters, mL, teaspoon, tsp., tablespoon. Some medicines come with a measuring tool, but often the units on the label are different from those on the tool. It can be very confusing, especially for a parent trying to treat a sick child.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended in 2013 that over-the-counter products use a standard dosing tool with consistent labeling. The changes however, were not required.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommended standard dosing tools for OTC products last year.

For this study, Dr. H. Shonna Yin and her colleagues ran an experiment to see what combination of tools and instructions would produce the fewest errors in dispensing liquid medication. They randomly assigned 2,110 parents to one of five pairings of the many possible combinations of tools and label instructions.

In nine trials, 84.4 percent of the parents made at least one dosing error, and more than 68 percent of the errors were overdoses. About 21 percent of parents at least once measured out more than twice the proper dose. Smaller doses produced more errors. When the dose was 2.5 milliliters, there were more than four times as many errors as when it was 5 milliliters.

The difference in errors was the tool used to give the medication. When a cup was used, there were four times as many errors as when an oral syringe was used.

“If the parents don’t have an oral syringe, the provider should give one to the parents to take home,” said Dr. Yin, who is an associate professor of pediatrics at New York University. “Especially for smaller doses, using the syringe made a big difference in accuracy.”

If you don’t have an oral syringe at your home, you can check with your pediatrician or pharmacist and they should be able to help you choose the right one for your child.

The study was published online in the journal, Pediatrics.

Story source: Nicholas Bakalar, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/family/most-parents-give-the-wrong-dose-of-liquid-medication.html?WT.mc_id=SmartBriefs-Newsletter&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=smartbriefsnl&_r=0

Your Toddler

Uncut Grapes Can Choke Young Children

1:30

While good nutrition involves plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, there’s one fruit that should not be given to children 5 and under; grapes.

Uncut grapes are dangerous for young children because their size and smooth texture can cause choking and even death.

There have already been three choking cases in Scotland, out of which two turned out to be fatal, involving boys who were 5 or younger.

A report published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood notes that food is responsible for more than half of the choking incidents, which end in deaths when it comes to children under the age of 5.

"There is general awareness of the need to supervise young children when they are eating ... but knowledge of the dangers posed by grapes and other similar foods is not widespread," noted Dr. Jamie Cooper, co-author of the report, from the emergency department at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital.

According to the same report, there is no awareness concerning the specific risks that soft fruits raise, and the relatively small numbers of cases per hospital, which occur every year, don't fully reflect the extent to which this issue can affect young children.

Kids that have choked on grapes don’t often make the news, but according to research conducted in the United States and Canada, grapes occupy third place when it comes to deaths caused by food-related incidents, after hotdogs and sweets.

There are two reasons why grapes are so dangerous, especially in very young children: first, because the airways of the children are small and their swallow reflex is not fully developed, and second due to the smooth texture of the fruit.

Other foods with similar texture can pose a choking hazard, such as tomatoes.  Health experts suggest that grapes and tomatoes be cut in half twice. Anytime a child (or an adult for that matter) is eating uncut grapes or small tomatoes they should pay attention to their eating and not mechanically pop them into their mouths – like when watching TV or playing video games.

Grapes and tomatoes are good sources of fiber and healthy nutrients, just make sure that your little one has his or hers’ cut up so they are not easily choked when eating them.

Story source: Livia Rusu, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/189851/20161224/grapes-as-a-choking-hazard-doctors-say-lack-of-awareness-puts-young-children-at-risk.htm

 

 

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

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DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

New report says not enough babies are getting much needed tummy time!

DR SUE'S DAILY DOSE

New report says not enough babies are getting much needed tummy time!

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