INCREASE IN PREMATURE BIRTHS
One out of every nine children born in the United States is born premature, according to a recent article in the New York Times. Premature babies often need to remain in the hospital for awhile to have their breathing monitored and to be closely watched for a period of time. Research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that live music benefits the development of premature babies. Researchers found when the music is either played or sung live rather than played from a CD or radio it reduced the stress response in premature babies. Theoretically, this allows more energy to be directed toward healthy infant development such as growing and eating. The research was conducted in 11 hospitals, led by the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and followed the benefits premature babies received when music therapists worked with the mother and baby. Watch the above video from TheNewYorkTimes youtube channel to see a baby and mother working with a music therapist while in the hospital.
BENEFITS OF LIVE MUSIC FOR BABIES
- calms breathing
- facilitates sleep
- improves sucking
- slows heartbeat
- promotes the “quiet alert” state
Researchers clearly emphasize the benefits of music for babies when it is played or sung live. This is because the music can be changed or adapted to the needs of the baby. For example, if baby is falling asleep the music can be sung more softly. The field of music therapy teaches practitioners to observe baby and adapt the music being played so the baby improves one of his developmental rhythms such as sucking, breathing, or sleeping. The therapist is trained to observe the minute changes in baby and adjust the music accordingly. Ideally, the parent is learning to do the same.
MUSIC INSTRUMENTS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF BABIES
Although several instruments may sound interesting to newborn baby, a few were used regularly by the music therapists because of their effects on vital signs. The external musical rhythm influences one of baby’s internal rhythms. Music therapists are trained in this technique and favor a few particular instruments for their beneficial effects. The Gato Box replicates the mother’s heartbeat while the Ocean Drum coordinates with the rise and fall of the breathing. Singing while strumming a guitar also was effective at changing the stress response of babies. Often parents chose a song they liked and slowed down the tempo while they sang rather than singing a traditional lullaby song.
ALL BABIES BENEFIT FROM MUSIC
There is one important difference between music played from a CD versus music played live. The live music is played in response to the rhythms of the infant. Tempos should be coordinated with the vital signs of the baby such as the rise and fall of the breathing, the movement of the eyes, or the rise and fall of the chest. For example, the ocean drum can be tilted one direction as the chest rises and then tilted the other direction as the chest falls so the sound of the drum will be harmonious with the breathing pattern of baby. The New York Times article states that it is not important for parents to necessarily buy these instruments, but to learn to mimic them as they observe their babies. We suggest that the practice of playing music and singing to your baby should be embraced by every parent. If research proves that it benefits premature babies it most likely provides the same benefits to babies carried full term. And don’t forget, the music also calms the nervous system of the parent.
Source: “Live Music’s Charms, Soothing Premature Hearts,” by Pam Belluck, New York Times, April 15, 2013.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS TO BABIES
This week the New York Times published an article which clearly identifies the best time to introduce solid foods to babies. “Infants Are Fed Solid Food Too Soon, C.D.C. Finds,” was published on the heels of a research study published in the journal Pediatrics. Researchers discovered that many parents are feeding their baby solid food long before the infant’s system can handle it. Some parents fed their infant solid food as young as early as 4 weeks. The recommended age for feeding babies solid foods is six months, states the New York Times article.
MYTHS ABOUT FEEDING BABY SOLID FOODS
Researchers found some common reasons that parents feed babies solid food before they were ready. The article identifies the following myths which are not reasons to feed babies solid food: to help improve sleep, because they are hungry, baby is growing rapidly, it helps baby put on weight, or because it is easy to feed them a small portion of the meal prepared for the family. In fact, studies show problems such as obesity can result when babies are fed solid food too soon. It is very important for parents to understand not to feed baby solids until he is 6 months old.
BABY DEVELOPMENT FOR EATING SOLID FOODS
The development of a baby includes the achievement of certain milestones which prepare baby for the milestone of eating solid foods. These important developmental skills enable a baby to sit and chew food that is taken from a fork or spoon. These skills include:
- ability to sit
- ability to keep his head lifted or upright
- ability to chew
- ability to close the mouth when food is put into it
- development of gut bacteria in the intestines (not a motor skill)
Once a baby has acquired these abilities and is 6 months old, check with your pediatrician to confirm that it is time to start feeding him solids. Remember to ask the pediatrician for a list of recommended solids to feed baby and a list of foods to avoid feeding baby.
As many parents and children celebrate Halloween, we would like to offer some tips on how to have a healthy Halloween for baby’s future years. First, choose festive activities over candy-collecting (a.k.a. trick-or-treating) which is much better for children’s health. Many communities now offer fun family Halloween activities on the weekend prior to the holiday as well as on October 31st. Just read your local papers and check the nearest Moms Club calendar for listings. This year our neighborhood offered a costume contest at a local restaurant, a carnival with camel rides and a bounce house, a pumpkin patch, a haunted hayride, and a carnival at a local school. Who needs to go trick-or-treating with so many fun activities to attend?
If you take your toddler trick-or-treating, try and keep some healthy options mixed in with the candy. Buy a healthy treat to give to kids who come to your door so you will not be stuck eating left-over candy. Today, CNN offered some tips we would love to share: “Make better candy choices.” Here are our favorite suggestions:
TOP 3 TIPS FOR HEALTHY HALLOWEEN TREATS
- Choose healthy food such as unsalted nuts for trick-or-treats.
- Give a non-edible treats such as stickers, or trading cards.
- Donate part of your candy to Halloween Candy Buy Back.
Remember one of the most important facts is that sugar creates cavities. The hard candies such as lollipops are the treats that do the most damage because they stick to the teeth. Encourage brushing the teeth immediately after eating candy, if possible. For more information about teeth that is specific to babies, please read our posts on how to promote healthy teeth for baby:
HAVE A HAPPY, HEALTHY, AND SAFE HALLOWEEN!
DANGERS OF TEXTING
A recent Wall Street Journal article by Ben Worthen explored the potential dangers of texting while parenting. Watch the above video from WSJDigitalNetwork’s youtube channel for a summary of the article. Emergency room doctors suspect that the recent rise in children’s injuries, especially in children under the age of 5, may be due to parents engaged with their smartphones while they were supposed to be watching their child. “Non-fatal injuries to children under age five rose 12% between 2007 and 2010, after falling for much of the prior decade,” writes Worthen. He cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as the source for the data, and states that they based the statistic on emergency-room records.
DATA SHOWS INCREASE IN TEXTING
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, texting is the dominant use of a mobile phone. The percentage of adults engaged with a smart phone in the activity of texting is approximately 65% of smart phone usage, while email is 47%, talking 45%, and listening to music is 29%. This data is cited from a Consumer Electronics Products and Usage Report from 2010. It clearly reveals that people are engaging with their phones to text more that any other e-activity.
To keep baby safe, it is important to keep your eyes on her. This is important especially once she masters her motor milestones of crawling and walking. The problem with texting while parenting is that you need your eyes and your hands to text, so that means you must direct your focus away from your baby to text. And, as the WSJ article points out, once we respond to a text we might check email, facebook, or search for something on the net while looking down at our phone. We know that when baby masters her motor skills she can move very fast. In one second she can climb the couch or pull something heavy off a shelf. Practice safety at home, at the pool, and at the park by asking people who may need to contact you to phone only so you can keep your eyes on baby. When you can, turn off your phone. This may be especially important at places such as the park where there are many new and unexpected situations that may present danger if baby is not closely supervised.
- Turn off your phone when possible (at parks, pools, etc.).
- Ask important contacts to call you rather than text.
- Be aware of your eyes. Keep them focused on baby.
- Baby proof your home to help prevent accidents.
“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 GEAR: infant SEATS IN THE NEWS
More than four million Bumbo Baby Seats were voluntarily recalled last Wednesday by Bumbo and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Although there was a previous recall in 2007, serious accidents have continued to occur. Almost two doen reports of infants wiggling out of their seats and suffering skull fractures led to the recall. Last March we posted articles from the Chicago Tribune which exposed the “Grave Concerns About The Popular Bumbo Seat.” The recent recall news immediately hit most of the major news outlets in print, online, and television. Here are just a few links:
LEARN TIPS TO IMPROVE BABY POSTURE
The recall recommends contacting Bumbo directly and they will send you a “repair kit” which incudes a “restraint belt” which is basically like a seat belt. This helps keep the child in the seat, according to Bumbo. However, we recommend getting rid of the seat. A baby’s head is very heavy and if they arch backward, the weight of their head may tip them over and take the chair with them. Instead, read some of our posts about how babies develop the sitting posture so you can guide your infant toward beautiful posture through exercise and play: