Early Caregiver-Child Relationships Build the Foundation for Lifelong Learning

Early Caregiver-Child Relationships Build a Foundation for Lifelong Learning, a featured article in this week’s WestEd R & D Alert, highlights a recent federal policy brief, Including Relationship-Based Care Practices in Infant-Toddler Care. The brief provides research-based guidance on how to raise the level of quality for out-of-home early child care.  The central message is the importance of supportive policies that focus on the relationship between caregiver and child as the key to strengthening healthy early development.

Read the full article and policy brief here:

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El vientre social: Cómo fortalecer el cerebro de los bebés

Nos complace anunciarles que “El vientre social: Cómo fortalecer el cerebro de los bebés”, originalmente escrito y narrado por J. Ronald Lally, está ahora disponible en español. Este video de 6 minutos muestra la necesidad que tienen los bebés, una vez que nacen, de que los cuiden dentro un “vientre social” que proporcione la nutrición, la protección y el enriquecimiento esenciales para el desarrollo saludable de sus cerebros aún en crecimiento. Lally recomienda tres políticas que son clave para asegurar la creación de este tipo de ambiente de apoyo: el permiso parental pagado, las visitas domiciliarias y el cuidado infantil de alta calidad.

La traducción y la narración en español fueron llevadas a cabo por Elsa Chahin.

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Now in Spanish! The Social Womb: Building Babies’ Brains

We are thrilled to announce that “The Social Womb: Building Babies’ Brains”, originally written and narrated by J. Ronald Lally, is now available to the public in Spanish. This 6-minute video depicts the need for babies, once born, to be cared for in a “social womb” that provides the nurturance, protection, and enrichment essential to the healthy development of their still-growing brains. Lally presents three key policy recommendations for ensuring creation of this kind of supportive setting: paid leave, home visiting, and high-quality infant care. Translation and narration in Spanish by Elsa Chahin.

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Podcast: Professional Expectations Without Professional Conditions

photo15-2In this episode, For Our Babies founder Dr. Ron Lally, from the Center For Child and Family Studies at WestEd, talks with Marcy Whitebook, from the Center for the Study of Childcare Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, about the current state of infant/toddler workforce conditions.  

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Length: 34 min 18 sec


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Promoting Peaceful Development of Our Babies

liling and baby


The Early Experiences that Lead to the Acceptance of Self and Understanding of Others

As we come to the end of 2015, it seems from the news we receive through our many media sources, that we live in a world consumed by fear and filled with violence and hatred. We at “For Our Babies” feel saddened by what we hear and see, yet know that if we play our part in getting society to see the importance of providing caring and rich early experiences to young children, some of this violence and hatred will be reduced.

Research has clearly shown that when interactions with young children are infused with the early provision of secure and caring nurturance, coupled with a deep understanding and support of their unique developmental agenda, children grow to be less fearful and more accepting of others. When children are treated with both caring nurturance and respect for their unique interests, they are inclined to develop a less fearful and more socially just worldview. They gradually come to expect that they, and others, will be treated caringly and viewed as the owners of basic human rights, including the right to explore their individuality, curiosity and creativity. The children learn to relate to others as they have been treated, and afford others the caring and considerations they have received. Let us all work to get the general public to understand the important link between early experience and how we come to think about and treat others.

The “For Our Babies” movement is based on the premise that, for a healthy self/other orientation to develop, children need early experiences with family and other caregivers who treat them with dignity and respect and lovingly expect the same type of fair treatment in return. We know that early experiences are incorporated into children’s first sense of self and also in their early expectation of others. These early experiences trigger one’s first sense of how he or she and others should expect to be treated and provide the base for later beliefs, behavior and interactions with others throughout life.

Enabling practitioners, parents, family members, and policy makers to provide the experiences and environments that enhance the development in children of this sense of social justice is critical component of the work of “For Our Babies”. It is those with whom children interact that shape their earliest orientation to social justice. Therefore, part of our effort is to advocate for policies and services that address and remedy socially unjust conditions impacting parents, providers and children that undercut the provision of experiences that support a child’s development and the development of a socially just worldview. Issues such as availability of parents to a new born, family poverty, infant/toddler teacher salary, and infant care quality are just a few of the inequities that need to be addressed.

As this new year commences, let us look not to the news that is filled with scenes of violence and hatred, but rather to actions we can take to promote the peaceful development of our children. Let’s start with our own babies. Let’s make the connection between the types of early experiences young children participate in and the development of a sense of fairness and social justice more obvious to the general public. Let’s advocate for policies, interventions, and services that clear away the socially unjust barriers currently impeding practitioners, parents, and family members from providing the young child with early experiences necessary to promote the development of both the acceptance of self and understanding of others.

We want thank everyone for being a voice in the For Our Babies movement and continuing to share resources and information about the needs of babies and those who care for them. We want to recognize For Our Babies New York for starting what we hope is the first of many state initiatives in the For Our Babies campaign. If you are interested in learning more about ways to get involved in the campaign, please email us at followus@forourbabies.org.


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News Roundup

Study of Advertisements in Parenting Magazines Don’t Always Show Safe Practices A new study found a surprisingly high number of advertisements in the top U.S. parenting magazines show images or products that contradict health and safety recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Researchers found nearly 1 in 6 ads had at least one offense such as images of infants shown sleeping on their stomachs or promotion of unsafe toys such as infant walkers. “On an individual per-ad basis, there were relatively few egregious contradictions. But our concern is that repeatedly seeing images with unsafe practices–especially in a place where new and seasoned parents look for advice–can lead parents to assume these activities are endorsed by the experts at the magazines and lead to unsafe practices at the home,” said lead author Michael B. Pitt, MD, FAAP, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Read more here.

New Study About Infant Visual Development Researchers from the IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation and the University of Pisa used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to record brain activity in 7-week-olds while they were visually engaged and then again while they were asleep. The results showed a surprisingly mature visual brain. Understanding the precise location of different visual areas in the infant brain and the extent of their maturation, will ultimately guide clinicians in the effort to chose appropriate rehabilitation strategies during the right time-windows.  Read about the study here.

Staff Infections that Respond to Antibiotics are More Common and Similarly Deadly as Antibiotic-Resistant Strains Staff infections are a frequent cause of infection in hospitalized infants. Research by experts at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the Duke Clinical Research Institute shows that strains of staph infections that respond to antibiotic treatment have just as high a mortality rate and affect more than twice as many babies as antibiotic-resistant strains. The findings suggest doctors should pay as much attention to staff infections that respond to antibiotics and include appropriate screening protocols at hospital newborn intensive care units as they do for resistant strains. Read the article here.

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

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News Roundup

More Hospitals Following Breastfeeding Standards According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the percentage of US hospitals that follow international guidelines to promote breastfeeding (designating them “baby-friendly”) has grown from 29 percent in 2007 to 54 percent in 2013. The steps include 10 practices endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Examples of these practices include: communicating breast-feeding policy to hospital staff, helping mothers initiate breast-feeding within 30 minutes of birth, encouraging breast-feeding on demand, and giving newborns no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated, such as when taking a prescription that could be harmful. Hospitals also must not accept free formula from companies. These practices can make a difference in whether or not a mother breastfeeds as well as how long she will continue. Partly due to antibodies in breast milk, babies who breast-feed have reduced risks of respiratory and ear infections, asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes and obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics says breast-feeding reduces postpartum bleeding in mothers and reduces their risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding also has been shown to help mothers return to their pre-pregnancy weight. You can read more about the report here.

Women with Elevated Blood Sugar Levels During Pregnancy are More Likely to Have Babies with Congenital Heart Defects New research out of Stanford University School of Medicine and Stanford Children’s Health found that pregnant women who have elevated glucose levels that don’t meet the diagnostic criteria for diabetes also face an increased risk for having children with congenital heart disease.  While the risks of gestational diabetes have been well-studied, less attention has been paid to smaller metabolic changes in pregnancy. “I’m excited by this research because it opens up a lot of questions about how physiologic processes in the mother may be related to congenital heart disease,” said James Priest, MD, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral scholar in pediatric cardiology. “Most of the time we don’t have any idea what causes a baby’s heart defect. I aim to change that.” The article can be found here.

Smoking Around Young Children May Lead to Behavioral Problems Researchers from Inserm and Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), in collaboration with the university hospitals of 6 French cities have found that pre- and postnatal exposure to tobacco can lead to behavioral problems in children.  The association is stronger when exposure takes place during pregnancy and after birth. “Our data indicate that passive smoking, in addition to the well-known effects on health, should also be avoided because of the behavioral disorders it may cause in children,” concludes the researcher. Read more about the study here.

Infants Benefit from Word Repetition Recent research from the University of Maryland and Harvard University finds young infants benefit from hearing words their parents repeat. “Parents who repeat words more often to their infants have children with better language skills a year and a half later,” said co-author Rochelle Newman, professor and chair of UMD’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences (HESP). “A lot of recent focus has been on simply talking more to your child — but how you talk to your child matters. It isn’t just about the number of words.” To read more about the study click here.


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Podcast: When the Bough Breaks

In this show, Dr. Lally discusses with Julie Weatherston the fragile state of infant care in the United States. Dr. Lally talks about what babies need, including teachers who are well trained and paid a living wage for the very important work they do. He says it’s time for the US to stop “doing business as usual” and start investing in the early years.


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Length: 19 min 57 sec


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News Roundup

Infants are Capable of Sleeping for Long Periods by 3 Months of Age Using infrared video cameras to make overnight recordings of 101 London infants, researchers at the University of London found that “Infants are capable of resettling themselves back to sleep by three months of age.” Three-month olds fed solely breast milk were as likely to self-resettle or have long sleep bouts as infants that were fed formula or mixed breast and formula milk. Watch video of a baby settling themselves here (fair warning this delightful video could make you sleepy!) and read more about the study here.

Study Finds Emotional Support From Grandparents has a Protective Effect Against Childhood Obesity A new study from Sweden published in the journal Pediatric Obesity has shown that the effects of social support from grandparents could help alleviate stress in parents, allowing them to make better food choices for their small children. Learn more here.

Study Shows Infant Brain Development Occurs Years Much Earlier Than Previously Thought The ability to visually categorize objects, using the right hemisphere of the brain, including the way we perceive faces, is an ability that has been thought to develop as we learn to read. This study from the University of Louvain published in the journal eLife shows that this ability is already highly evolved in babies as young as four months. Find the full study here.

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

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Let’s Stop Squandering America’s Future!

Squandering the Future Hi-Res CoverLooking for an excellent summer read? This one is hot off the press today! In her new book, Squandering America’s Future – Why ECE Policy Matters for Equality, Our Economy, and Our Children, Susan Ochshorn offers a pioneering guide to the big issues in contemporary early childhood policy. Written in a lively, personal style, the book drives home the importance of the earliest years for developing human capital—the nation’s future.

Susan Ochshorn is the founder of the consulting firm ECE PolicyWorks. A former journalist, Ochshorn blogs at the Huffington Post and ECE Policy Matters, the go-to place for early childhood teachers, those who train them, and the decision makers who determine their professional course. For more information about Susan Ochshorn or Squandering America’s Future, please visit: www.ecepolicyworks.com.

Here is just a small sampling of praise Ochshorn has received for her book:

 “This remarkable book manages to pinpoint the critical issues in the care and education of young children with up-to-date research, and all of this in a pleasurable and lively style.  This needs to be read widely, and right away.” — Deborah Meier, Senior Scholar, NYU Steinhardt School, Author, The Power of their Ideas

Susan Ochshorn paints a picture of children and families in America exposed to risks and circumstances that threaten their lives, happiness, and future. Fortunately, she doesn’t leave us in despair, but shows us how a few dedicated people, schools, agencies, and institutions have made a difference in children’s lives—a difference that is enhancing early development in this generation and those to come.” Samuel J. Meisels, Founding Executive Director, Buffett Early Childhood Institute

Susan Ochshorn has created a kaleidoscope of stories and statistics to illustrate the profound injustices we are visiting on our children and the corresponding injuries we are inflicting on ourselves. We can only hope that Squandering America’s Future will help to turn the tide.” — Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America

Finally, if reading Squandering America’s Future gives you ideas for furthering the For Our Babies movement, please contact us at followus@forourbabies.org. We’d love to hear from you!


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