Guest Blog: The Reading Relationship

Guest Blog By Deborah J. Weatherston, PhD

Shutterstock_Caucasian Father and Infant Reading a BookA recent recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that parents read aloud regularly to their babies beginning in infancy is really big news for babies and the infant mental health community.  Literacy promotion by pediatricians during every well baby visit encourages parents to listen and very young children to learn.  Reading aloud increases support for early brain development; encourages pleasurable, shared reading activities; builds language and literacy skills; and promotes warm and responsive relationships between parents and very young children during the first 5 years of life.

Partner with the American Academy of Pediatrics to promote the reading relationship as an avenue for health, socioemotional development, and early literacy beginning in infancy and continuing through the first 5 years of life!

Check out the abstract and the complete article on the Pediatrics website www.aap.org and partner with your local AAP to promote this recommendation and the link to infant mental health.

(Deborah J. Weatherston is the Executive Director of Michigan’s Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH) and the Editor of the World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) Perspectives in Infant Mental Health. She co-developed and directed (1988-2004) the Graduate Certificate Program in Infant Mental Health at the Merrill-Palmer Institute/Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan where, as a member of MI-AIMH, she participated in the development of the Competency Guidelines and the MI-AIMH Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Focused Practice Promoting Infant Mental health. She was a ZERO TO THREE fellow and has published numerous articles and books related to the practice of infant-parent intervention services and reflective supervision.)

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News Roundup June 11th

Newborn and DadMemories of Life as an Infant are Forgotten due to Rapid Pace of Brain Growth

 The LA Times reported this month on research by Neuroscientists in Japan and Canada who recently conducted a series of experiments showing how more memories are retained with a slower pace of brain-cell generation. The results of these experiments were reported in the journal, Science suggesting the fast pace of infant brain growth is responsible for the forgotten memories of infancy. Read the article here.

Causes of Headaches in Pregnancy Need Closer Attention From Healthcare Professionals

 A new review published this month in The Obstetrician & Gynecologist (TOG) says healthcare professionals should be aware of and alert to the more severe and rare causes of headaches resulting from underlying health complications. About 90% of pregnancy and post-natal headaches are tension or migraine related, though 85 different headaches have been identified. This study suggests that healthcare professionals must be more alert to the signs and symptoms of severe headaches that may have rarer causes to prevent avoidable complications. This review also stresses that imaging is safe during pregnancy. Read the abstract and Pdf here.

Many Infants Not Being Placed on Their Backs to Sleep

According to the researchers of this study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting, only about two-thirds of term infants nationwide are placed on their backs to sleep, and the rate is even lower among preterm infants. ”Given that supine sleep positioning significantly reduces an infant’s risk for SIDS, it is worrisome that only two-thirds of full-term infants born in the U.S. are being placed back-to-sleep,” said lead author Sunah S. Hwang, MD, MPH, FAAP, a neonatologist at Boston Children’s Hospital and South Shore Hospital, and instructor in pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Data was analyzed by Dr. Hwang and her colleagues from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS). Read more.

Lower Verbal Test Scores Seen in Toddlers who Play Non-Educational Touch Screen Games

The objective of a recent study by pediatricians from the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York was to examine if the use of touch-screen devices by 0-3 year olds was of any educational benefit to infants and toddlers. This study results indicated that there was no significant difference in testing scores between children who were exposed to touch-screen devices and children who were not, but that children who play non-educational games (i.e. Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja) receive lower verbal scores upon developmental testing. “Technology can never replace a parent’s interaction with his or her child. Just talking to your child is the best way to encourage learning” Dr. Milanaik said. Read the full article here.

Recommend Practices for Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education

On April 14, 2014 the Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children published their “Recommended Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education” providing guidance to practitioners and families about the most effective ways to improve learning outcomes and promote development of young children, birth through five years of age, who have or are at risk for developmental delays or disabilities. The current DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention and Early Childhood Special Education can be found here.

This News RoundUp was compiled and co-authored by Jean Kurnik, M.A.

 

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A Call to Action on Behalf of Babies

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  • The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a paid-leave policy for parents at or around the birth of a child.
  • Prenatal care in the United States remains expensive, while virtually all other industrialized countries provide free or affordable prenatal care.
  • And, while families in the U.S. pay about 80 percent of the direct cost of child care services, parents in European countries pay about 30 percent.

WestEd’s J. Ronald Lally says we can—and must—do better.

 “The United States needs to become much more strategic and farsighted in the way it supports its children during their critical first few years of life,” says Lally, Co-Director of the WestEd Center for Child & Family Studies.

This reality is why Lally and his colleagues launched For Our Babies, a national initiative to promote healthy development in U.S. children from conception to age three.

Download this free article to learn about For Our Babies and how brain research shows that a healthy, nurturing, and engaging first three years of life are critical to babies’ brain development, which supports success in school and life. Please share this article widely and help us engage people in a conversation about what babies really need!

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Free Download: Recommended Supports and Services for Babies and Their Families

Picture 1Chapter 7 of J. Ronald Lally’s book For Our Babies: Ending the Invisible Neglect of America’s Infants is now available on-line for free!

This chapter, titled Recommended Supports and Services for Babies and Their Families,  presents 20 recommendations for the direct and indirect supports that families need to help with the care of their babies.

As Lally states in the introduction of this chapter, “The United States is one of the most forward-looking, powerful nations in the world; thus, we should have policies and practices in place that prioritize the care and protection of babies. The recommendations in this chapter are organized according to the topics in chapters 3-6 and include references to appendices that provide further more detailed information”.

Click here to download your copy today. We hope you will share this information widely and help us spread the word about what babies need.  Information on how to purchase the full publication can be found on the same link.

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News Roundup May 2nd

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Mother’s Diet Before Conception Affects Her Child’s Genes
This new study provides the first evidence in humans that a mother’s diet before conception could permanently affect her child’s DNA and lifelong health. Professor Andrew Prentice, Professor of International Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine said: “Our on-going research is yielding strong indications that the methylation machinery can be disrupted by nutrient deficiencies and that this can lead to disease. Our ultimate goal is to define an optimal diet for mothers-to-be that would prevent defects in the methylation process”. Click here to read more.

New Research Provides Insight Into Human Brain Development Mid-Pregnancy
Research from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, recently published in the in the journal Nature, is publicly available and provides insight into diseases like autism that are linked to early brain development. This research shows where different genes are turned on and off during mid-pregnancy. “Knowing where a gene is expressed in the brain can provide powerful clues about what its role is,” says Ed Lein, Investigator at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Read more here.

Prenatal Risk Factors May Put Children at Risk of Developing Kidney Disease
In this study from the University of Washington, researchers examined and tried to connect the association of prenatal risk factors to the cause of certain types of kidney disease (CKD) that may be programmed prenatally. “We hope this research leads to further research on ways to reduce kidney disease through either early treatment or prevention that might begin even before birth,” said Dr. Hsu, lead researcher. More about this study can be found here.

Study Explores The Role of Touch in How Infants Learn Language

Recent research out of Purdue University takes a look at how touch influences language learning in infants. Amanda Seidl, an associate professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, is the lead researcher on this study. Through her interest in the cues and sources of information that babies may combine to learn their language, she is finding that a caregiver’s touch can help babies find words in the continuous stream of speech. When language was reinforced by aligned touching, babies responded with participation. But babies were not able to use verbal cues in the same way when their own bodies were not touched. Read more about this study here.

Education Department Continues Call for Early Intervention
On Thursday, April 17, Michael Yudin, Acting Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the U.S. Department of Education (ED) posted on the Department’s Home Room blog about the importance of Early Screening. He used the platform to stress the need for more screening, particularly in low-income, urban and minority communities, where children are screened and offered services at a much lower rate. “ The research suggests that children of color are disproportionately underrepresented in early intervention services and less likely than white children to be diagnosed with developmental delays,” Yudin said. He encouraged blog readers to use ED’s new initiative, Birth to 5: Watch me Thrive! as a support resource to help increase early screening. To read the blog post, click here.

This News Roundup was compiled and co-authored by Jean Kurnik, M.A.

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The Human Brain’s Need For a “Social Womb” During Infancy

Picture 2In this article “The Human Brains Need for a Social WombFINALApril2014” J. Ronald Lally tells us why the young brain needs a protected and nurtured experience equivalent to the protection a fetus receives in the womb.

Because of the lasting impact of early brain structuring, Lally argues that whether a baby is cared for at home or in child care, the conditions under which the infant’s brain develops must be taken seriously. Lally says “child development research points to the need for a social womb that provides the infant with the opportunity to 1) develop secure bonds with people who care for them, 2) to engage in protected and encouraged social, intellectual and communicative exploration, and 3) build a positive self-identity and sense of self.”

In his summary of policy recommendations to support a social womb, Lally describes the importance and goals of: paid leave, well baby care and high quality infant care.

Download the full article in pdf format: The Human Brains Need for a Social WombFINALApril2014.

You can also find more information on the “Social Womb” concept in J. Ronald Lally’s latest book, For Our Babies: Ending the Invisible Neglect of America’s Infants.

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Paid Family Leave In California: Need for Outreach

African American Mother kissing young infant fshutterstock_72019543Most American workers have very few options when it comes to taking time off to bond with a new born, adopted or foster child. National legislation, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), only ensures 12 weeks of unpaid leave to those who are covered by the law.  Due to restrictions in who is covered, 40% of U.S. workers are not. Of those who are covered by FMLA, but don’t take the unpaid leave, almost half say it’s because they can’t afford to take unpaid leave.  Only 11 percent of private sector workers and 17 percent of public workers have access to paid maternity leave through their employers.

In 2004, there was some relief offered to California parents when the state became the first of three U.S. states to implement a Paid Family Leave program (New Jersey and Rhode Island are the other two). In California, workers contribute to a State Disability fund which allows them to be eligible to receive up to 55% of their wages for up to six weeks to bond with a new born, adopted or foster child or to care for a seriously ill family member.

Some of the benefits of Paid Family Leave in California include:

  • Mothers who took paid leave breastfed their babies for twice as long as the median duration of new mothers.
  • The proportion of new fathers taking paid family leave for bonding increased significantly, suggesting that the program increases bonding opportunities for the whole family.
  • New mothers who are able to take leave after the birth of their babies experience lower rates of post-partum depression
  • Workers reported a positive effect on their ability to care for a a new child and are more able to find reliable child care before they return to work.

While California’s Paid Family Leave program has shown great benefits to families who have used it, low awareness about the program, particularly among young adults, Latinos and low-wage workers, is keeping some families from these rewards.

This year, on the 10th anniversary of the implementation of Paid Family Leave in California, the California Work & Family Coalition (a project of Next Generation) is working with partner organizations to urge that the Employment Development Department raise awareness of the paid family leave program by using a portion of the State Disability fund, which currently is $2.4 billion dollars, for effective education and awareness.  For more information about California’s Paid Leave program and the efforts to increase awareness, go to the Paid Family Leave CA’s website.

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News Roundup March 31st

Picture 2Senate Passes Child Care and Community Block Grant Reauthorization On March 13, 2014, the Senate voted 96 to 2 to pass S. 1086, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 (CCDBG), reauthorizing the the CCDBG Act of 1990 through Fiscal Year 2020.  The bill was lauded as an example of how the Senate can function as a bipartisan legislative body.  CCDBG is designed to help low-income parents with child care when they return to the workforce. A portion of the funds are also for activities related to improving quality of care such as provider training.  The new version of the law would set higher standards for child care providers.  It would also outline improvements to the quality of childcare programs, such as requiring states to set aside a larger percentage of funding to improve program quality. For amendments and more information about the bill, click here.

Infant Sleep (White Noise) Machines Potentially Harmful to Babies’ Hearing A new study by researchers from the University of Toronto measured sound level output of infant sleep machines in hospitals. The research findings suggest that consistent use of these machines could put infants at risk for sound induced hearing loss and auditory development. Read more about the study here.


Genes Play a Significant Role in Parenting and Parenting is Also Influenced by the Child’s Behavior A study involving more than 20,000 families has been conducted by two Michigan State University psychologists. The study involved a statistical analysis of 56 scientific studies from around the world that have studied parenting behavior. The results of this analysis show that parenting styles stem from many factors, including genetic influences. One outstanding finding was that children’s own characteristics play an important role in all areas of parenting. Read more about the research here.

Infections Caused by a Specific Type of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria are on the Rise in U.S. Children  According to a new study conducted by a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and published in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, a specific type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria are on the rise in U.S. children. The bacteria, though still rare, are increasing and is being found in children of all ages, especially those 1-5 years old. The findings raise concerns that oral treatment options may not be effective the way they have been in the past. Researchers are calling for more needed research to define risk factors for these infections in children. Find more information about this study here.

Significant Depletion of Folic Acid in Pregnant Women Caused by High UV Exposure This recent study from Queensland University found High Rates of UV exposure significantly depleted folate levels in pregnant women and those women planning to become pregnant. “This is concerning as the benefits of folic acid are well-known, with health professionals urging young women to take a folic acid supplement prior to and during pregnancy,” researcher Professor Michael Kimlin said. For more information click here.

This News Roundup was compiled and co-authored by Jean Kurnik, M.A.

 

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New Findings: Early Childhood Investments Substantially Boost Adult Health!

Toddler girl facial close upEconomist James Heckman and colleagues conducted a new analysis of the Abecedarian Project, one of the oldest and most cited U.S. early childhood (infancy through age 5) intervention programs. Their research report, published on March 27th, 2014 in Science, shows positive effects on adult heath.

The researchers collected recent data to find that children who were assigned to the early educational intervention group in the Abecedarian Project have significantly better health now (in their mid-30s) than those in the control group. The findings show the potential of quality early childhood programs that incorporate health and nutrition to prevent disease and promote adult health.

The policy recommendations in the report include the following:

  • Recognize that quality, birth-to-five early childhood development programs can and should be used to prevent adult chronic disease.
  • Make quality early childhood development an integral part of ongoing healthcare reform, particularly among families receiving Medicaid and CHIP.
  • Understand that quality early childhood programs start with effective perinatal care for mothers and begin at birth for children.
  • Integrate early health and nutrition into early childhood development programs. Early health is critical for later adult health outcomes.

To download a 2-page summary of the findings and their implications, view a two minute video on the topic, or to read the full report, visit the Heckman website.

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News Roundup March 4th

lily-totoro-colorAlcohol Consumption in Early Stages of Pregnancy Has Harmful Effect on Placenta

Scientists have identified two harmful effects of consuming alcohol during the early stages of a pregnancy: Damage to the placenta and reduction of the important amino acid called ‘Taurine’ that is delivered through the placenta from the mother to her baby. “This research also suggests that women who are trying to conceive should not drink, as the damage caused by alcohol can happen very early on in pregnancy — perhaps before a woman knows she is pregnant”, said John Aplin, a professor of reproductive biomedicine at Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at The University of Manchester. Read more here.

New Guidelines by The American Dental Association

As reported this month in the New York Times, the A.D.A. has issued new guidelines for fluoride toothpaste use with our youngest children. The A.D.A. has previously recommended that children begin to use a pea size amount of fluoride paste beginning at 24 months. Due to a rising number of cavities in very young children, the A.D.A. has changed the recommendation to a “tiny smear of fluoride toothpaste” twice daily once teeth erupt. Read full recommendation here.

Researchers Warn of Chemical Impacts on Babies

In 2006 Scientists identified five chemicals that could be reliably classified as developmental neurotoxicants: lead, methylmercury, arsenic, poly-chlorinated biphenyls, and toluene. A recent study by the same team of researchers has led to their assertion that even more neurotoxicants remain undiscovered.  They say that untested chemicals should not be presumed to be safe to brain development and that many chemicals could have damaging effects on the fetal and early childhood brain. They propose an update of the 38-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act and a global prevention strategy to protect the next generation of brains.  Read more here.

 This News Roundup was compiled and co-authored by Jean Kurnik, M.A.

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