Category Archives: BABY RESEARCH

research studies on babies and infants

BABIES, ANTIBIOTICS, AND OBESITY

“Antibiotics Too Soon May Set Babies Up For Obesity:  Study,” Dr. Shari Barnett, ABC Medical News, August 21,2012.

 CHILDHOOD OBESITY RESEARCH

New research suggests that giving babies antibiotics too soon in life may contribute to obesity.  The study published in the International Journal of Obesity reflected research in the United Kingdom with a group of over 11,500 babies.  Researchers checked the height, weight and antibiotic use of babies at birth, 7 weeks, 10 months, 20 months, 38 months and 7 years.  Even though researchers took into consideration factors such as whether the mother smoked while pregnant, what the baby ate, socioeconomic factors, and the weight of the baby’s parents, a relationship between antibiotic use and weight gain was clear.  Specifically, the use of antibiotics between birth and 6 months was a factor.

CHILDHOOD OBESITY:  CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

The importance of this study is that it shifts our thinking about obesity from primarily a “diet and exercise” approach to include “environmental exposures.”  In an ABC news story, Dr. Richard Decklebaum, professor of nutrition, pediatrics and epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center states “I think that generally antibiotics are quick, frequently overused by practitioners to treat viral infection.”  He thinks practitioners need to be aware and not overprescribe antibiotics.  Other factors which research shows may contribute to obesity in childhood include working mothers and C-section deliveries.  We will look at the research on these topics soon.

TIPS FOR BABIES AND PREVENTION OF OBESITY

The new study recommends checking with your doctor to verify that baby’s health condition requires antibiotics for treatment.  Physicians and the media are quick to point out that this study does not mean that antibiotics should be avoided when needed.  It is very important to give the baby antibiotics if a medical condition exists.  Keep in mind the importance of diet and exercise factors as well.  For parenting tips on  prevention of obesity in young children, read our posts:

 


BABY TALKING: BABIES READ LIPS

“Babies Read Lips Before They Can Speak, Study Shows,” Lauran Neergaard and CBS News Staff, cbsnews.com, 1/17/12.

On the first birthday of one of my Stellar Caterpillars, the father asked me, “She walks so beautifully!  Now I can’t wait for her to talk.  Do you think you can teach her to talk?  I answered, “I can show you how to teach her to talk.”  Learning to talk can be broken down into micro-skills they way movement can be broken down into mini-milestones.  Recently a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by developmental psychologist David Lewkowicz of Florida Atlantic University confirms that babies learn to speak not just by hearing sounds but also by reading lips.

baby TALKING:  ANATOMY LESSON

The moving body parts involved in the action of talking include the lips, tongue and jaw.  The lips create the shapes of the mouth that help make the different sounds in speaking.  The jaw opens and closes in this process.  The tongue moves around inside the mouth to different locations which assists in creating the various sounds we make as well.  The intricate coordination of these three body parts create the “movement” of talking.

BABY LIP READING RESEARCH STUDY

The study led by Lewkowicz involved 180 babies at ages 4, 6, 8, and 10 months.  Researchers observed babies changing focus on a woman speaking on video in their native language of English and their non-native language of Spanish.  The babies’ shifting focus from the lips to the eyes was closely monitored by a gadget placed on a headband.

The researchers found a pattern demonstrating dramatic shift in attention based on the babies’ ages.  The 4-month-olds gazed mostly into the eyes, the 6-month-olds spent equal amounts of time looking at the eyes and the mouth,  the 8- and 10-month-olds studied mostly the mouth, and at 12 months attention started shifting back toward the speaker’s eyes.  When the babies observed the non-native language being spoken, it was necessary to focus on the lips for longer periods of time in order to gain extra information to process the unfamiliar sounds.

BABIES AND LIP READING

The research study led by Lewkowicz is very important because it teaches us the importance of “face-to-face” interaction with  baby.  Face-to-face interaction can be defined as time when a parent or caregiver puts his or her face quite close (less than 12 inches) to baby and exaggerates words with his or her lips.  The words should not be spoken too quickly as babies need time to see what you are doing with your mouth.  This visual observation of the moving parts involved in speaking is called “lip reading.”  It is the involvement baby’s sense of sight in learning to speak.

Try some face-to-face time with baby while singing a favorite song or repeating one word a few times and exaggerating it with your lips.  Don’t be surprised when she reaches out to touch your lips or stick her hand into your mouth.  They want to know how you are making those sounds. Next, she will try and imitate you.  She will be talking soon!

 

 


BABIES HEALTH AND SALT INTAKE

“Taste for Salt May Be Shaped During Infancy,” by Amanda Gardner,  HEALTH magazine, and published on CNN.com, 12/21/11.

ADULTS AND SODIUM INTAKE

By now most of us have learned to watch our salt intake. This means choosing the “Low Sodium” options at the grocery store, the “Heart Healthy” options on the restaurant menu, and leaving the salt shaker off of the dinner table.  Those of us obsessed with nutrition, health, and wellness have also learned to read the list of ingredients on everything we buy to identify what is known as “hidden salt,”  the salt added to the bread, crackers, etc. by the manufacturer.  We choose lower salt options because we have learned the health consequences of excess sodium.

RESEARCH ON SALT PREFERENCES IN BABIES

Recent research reveals the importance of monitoring the salt content of baby’s diet as well.  Recently, researchers from the Monell Center for Advancing Discovery in Taste and Smell reported the results of a study regarding babies and salt.  The researchers found that babies fed starchy table foods such as crackers, bread, and cereal, had a much higher preference for salty foods than infants of the same age who were not fed these same foods.  The study also reveals that when children reach preschool age, those fed starchy table foods during infancy prefer salty snacks such as potato chips and french fries.  The conclusion is that the preference for salty foods may be formed during infancy.

BABY SNACKS AND ADDED SALT

Common table foods such as cereal, bread and crackers are often popular food to give infants when they are learning to eat.  They are easy for baby to pick up with her thumb and first finger, developing her pincer grasp, and place into her mouth to chew.  Chewing these highly processed foods is quite easy for baby, so they are a popular snack option.  However, most of them contain added salt.  It is important to choose the healthy options.  And of course, ask your pediatrician if you have any questions regarding food choices for your baby.

TIPS FOR KEEPING BABY”S DIET HEALTHY

The researchers found that babies who stayed on a diet of baby food for the first six months, or who received snacks of fruit only in addition to the baby food, were indifferent to the flavor of salt as they grew older.  Many parents today  make homemade baby food rather than buying it in the stores so they can eliminate added salt and sugar.  Many websites and books are available for guidance on this topic.  Another tip for parents is to read the ingredients listed on the packaging of bread, crackers, and cereals to locate some with no added salt.  Today, one can find salt-free brands in each for these food products.  Always carry these healthy options with you, as babies get hungry frequently.

 


TV AND BABIES

AAP GUIDELINES FOR BABIES AND TV

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement in its November 2011 issue of “Pediatrics” regarding guidelines for babies and television.  The first guidelines issued by AAP in 1999 recommended avoiding “screen time” for babies under the age of two years old.  Current research findings confirm their previous recommendations.  “Screen time” includes watching TV, the computer, a DVD, a cell phone, a tablet computer, or any similar device.

According to AAP research 90 percent of children under the age of two watch some media on a screen, averaging two hours a day.  Some infants are subjected to even more screen time since TVs and DVD seem like convenient babysitters for some parents and due to the exploding market of videos claiming to increase baby’s intelligence. “Second-hand screen time,” the time when the TV is on in the background, was also discouraged.    The AAP highly recommends keeping children under the age of two as “screen-free” as possible.

CHOOSE MOVEMENT PLAY FOR BABIES INSTEAD OF TV

Key research findings include poor sleeping habits when TV viewed just before sleep, language delays from exposure to TV instead of live humans talking, and brain development negatively effected from the constant noise and pace of the TV.  In their report, doctors strongly encourage movement play and interaction with humans at home.  Activities recommended include talking, singing, playing, and listening to music at home with baby while keeping the TV and computers OFF.  Stellar Caterpillar lessons encourage these activities and teach parents simple techniques to encourage movement play for baby.

TV AND BABIES IN THE NEWS

Because of the significance of the research findings the AAP guidelines were reported in several major national news outlets.  In addition to the AAP report, you can read more about the research findings and expert opinions on the AAP guidelines for babies and TV at the links below:

 

For more in our series on babies and technology please read “Electronic Gadgets Pose Safety Risk,” “Baby Toys:  Unplugged vs. Electronic,” and “Baby Books:  E-Books on iPads.”


PRE-PREGNANCY DIET RESEARCH

“Healthy Diet May Cut Risk of Birth Defects,” Wall Street Journal, 10/4/11.

Donna is out of town for a few days of vacation, so today we share the above article recently published in the Wall Street Journal.  More about this article will appear on this page next week.


VESTIBULAR STIMULATION BENEFITS MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT IN BABIES

CHAIR SPINNING EXPERIMENT

The journal Science published a study in 1977 offering promising evidence of the impact of mild vestibular stimulation on the gross motor skill development of babies.  Babies ranging from three to thirteen months were subjects of a research project.  The gross motor ability of each baby was evaluated prior to the project.  Each baby received sixteen sessions of chair spinning (four times a week for four weeks).  The researcher seated an infant on his lap and spun around in a swivel chair ten times, and after each single spin he made an abrupt stop. The objective was for the infants to receive stimulation of the three semicircular canals of the vestibular system.

The researcher varied the position of each baby from the following three positions:  sitting with the head tilted slightly forward, side-lying on the left side, and side-lying on the right side.  The variations in positions provides stimulation to each of the three canals in the vestibular system.  The babies loved this experience, and they expressed it through laughing and babbling!  Often, they fussed when the chair stopped for its thirty-second rest between spins.  In addition to this group that received the chair-spinning, there were two “control” groups of infants.  One group that did not spin at all, and one group that sat in the chair on a researcher’s lap for sixteen sessions, but did not spin.

RESULTS:  ADVANCED MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT

The results showed that the group which received the chair spinning treatment improved in their motor skill development significantly more than the infants in the two control groups.  The babies who were spun showed advanced development of not only their motor skills, but also their reflexes.  It is noted that the gross motor skills of sitting, crawling, standing and walking were particularly improved in the group which received the stimulation.

VESTIBULAR STIMULATION AND STRENGTH FOR BABY

What we learn from this experiment is that it is not only muscular strength that is necessary to develop motor skills, but also vestibular activity.  When baby learns each of the Stellar Caterpillar “Top 10″ motor skills, she is receiving vestibular stimulation which facilitates learning her next motor skill.  After baby learns “lifting the head,” which brings a certain amount of vestibular stimulation, she learns “rolling.”  When baby learns to roll, she often rolls across the floor, which brings an increase in vestibular stimulation.  This level of stimulation does not occur with a random roll, but with a series of rolls, one after another.  It also stimulates different canals from lifting the head.  From the above experiment we know that babies who receive vestibular stimulation may show advanced development of gross motor skills such as crawling, standing, and walking.  By “advanced development” we do not mean that they achieve these milestones earlier than average, but they acquire them with advanced skill.  Advanced skill means they perform the skill deliberately with repetition, confidence, and optimal mechanics.