News Roundup January 15th

Head Start Participation Has Positive Impact on Childhood Obesity A University of Michigan study looked at body mass index associated with Head Start participation. The findings show that kids who participate in Head Start tend to have a healthier weight by kindergarten than similarly aged kids not in the program. In their first year in Head Start, obese and overweight kids lost weight faster than two comparison groups of children who weren’t in the program, researchers found. Similarly, underweight kids gained weight faster. Because almost one-quarter of all U.S. preschool-aged children are overweight or obese, and obesity in childhood often continues into adulthood, experts worry about future health problems in overweight children.”Participating in Head Start may be an effective and broad-reaching strategy for preventing and treating obesity in United States preschoolers,” said lead researcher Dr. Julie Lumeng, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Center for Human Growth and Development. Read about the study here.

A Steady Steam of Talking to Babies Is Even Better for Them Than Reading Does reading to infants benefit their cognitive development at 9-months-old? Results of an Irish study recently published in the journal Language Teaching and Therapy highlights the potential of reading and talking to infants, not just for language and literacy development but also for other aspects of cognitive development. Read more about the study in this NYMag article or you can access the full study here.

Listening to Speech Helps Form a Baby’s Foundation for Subsequent Learning In an article titled Listen Up! Speech Is for Thinking During Infancy, to be published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Northwestern University psychologist Sandra Waxman and New York University’s Athena Vouloumanos asess the impact of human speech on infant cognition in the first year of life. “It’s not because [children] have low vocabularies that they fail to achieve later on. That’s far too simple,” said Waxman, the Louis W. Menk Chair in Psychology, a professor of cognitive psychology and a fellow in the University’s Institute for Policy Research. “The vocabulary of a child — raised in poverty or in plenty — is really an index of the larger context in which language participates.” Consequently, Vouloumanos advocates speaking to infants, not only “because it will teach them more words,” she said, but because “listening to speech promotes the babies’ acquisition of the fundamental cognitive and social psychological capacities that form the foundation for subsequent learning.” Read more here.



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News Roundup December 2nd

New Study Reveals Nearly 55% of US Infants are Sleeping With Potentially Unsafe Bedding  Despite warnings against it, a new study finds that over half of US infants are still placed to sleep with bedding that increases their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related suffocation. “Parents have good intentions,” says study author Carrie K. Shapiro-Mendoza, from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)’s Division of Reproductive Health, “but may not understand that blankets quilts and pillows increase a baby’s risk of SIDS and accidental suffocation.” The Safe to Sleep campaign advises not using blankets or other coverings but recommends using sleep clothing such as a one-piece sleeper and keeping the room at a comfortable temperature. Read more about the National Institutes of Health (NIH), CDC study here.

A Complicated Issue: Should Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women Eat Fish?  A survey conducted earlier this year found that pregnant women were not eating much fish due to a fear of mercury consumption, which could cause them to have a less than adequate intake of certain omega 3 fatty acids.  Read here for information on this subject from a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who has published a Viewpoint in the November 2014 issue of American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology entitled, “The FDA’s new advice on fish: it’s complicated.” D. Wenstrom.

Hospital Websites Not Providing Significant Information for Pregnant Women Concerning Tdap Vaccination and Whooping Cough Prevention  Whooping cough is a highly infectious bacterial infection which is serious if not fatal to newborns. A study of Michigan birthing hospitals found that the majority of them had no information on their website about the Tdap vaccination to prevent whooping cough and those that did have information it was not obvious. “Rather than burying information about infant pertussis prevention in archived pages, birthing hospitals should identify a prominent location to provide specific information about the importance of Tdap vaccination for pregnant women, family members, and others who will be in close contact with a newborn”, said the study’s lead author.  Read more here.

Congenital Heart Disease in Pregnant Women May Not Mean High Complication Risks During Delivery Though previous research has found that childbirth is a time of increased risk for complications in women with congenital heart disease, recent research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2014 has found that pregnant women with congenital heart disease had very low risks of arrhythmias (irregular heart beat) or other heart-related complications during labor and delivery.  Read about the study here.

This News Roundup compiled and co-authored by Jean Kurnik, MA.




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Is There a Healthy “Media Diet” for Babies?

Today’s infants and toddlers are born into a world of digital gadgets. Recent research says:
  • On average, children from birth to 23 months old are watching 55 minutes of TV a day, and 2- to 4-year-olds are watching 90 minutes a day.
  • Use of mobile media starts young: More than a third (38%) of all children less than 2 years old have now used a mobile device for any media activity compared to 10% 2 years ago. Among 2- to 4-year- olds, the rate has grown from 39% to 80%; and among 5- to 8-year-olds, mobile media usage has risen from 52% to 83%.
  • Smartphones are the most frequently used device among children 8 years old and younger; 51% have used smartphones for a media activity, although tablets are close behind at 44%.

Despite these statistics, no research shows when children younger than 2 years old use these devices independently it enhances their development.  Instead the many studies on the impact of TV watching suggest potential damaging effects on children’s attention, learning, sleep, and overall health. That being said, research also suggests that screen media can become tools for learning if both content and context are taken into consideration.

How can parents use science to inform their decisions about the role media will play in the lives of their babies? In a new article, Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight, authors Claire Lerner, LCSW, ZERO TO THREE and Rachel Barr, PhD, Department of Psychology and Director of Georgetown Early Learning Project at Georgetown University, offer research-based guidelines for screen use for children under 3 years. Download the full article on the ZERO TO THREE website where, in addition to Screen Sense, you will find a summary of the key findings, tips for how to use screen media with children under 3, and an infographic about 5 common misconceptions related to children and screen media.






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Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages

5thAve_041A new report Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages: The Childhood Workforce 25 Years after the National Child Care Staffing Study by Marcy Whitebook, Deborah Phillips, and Carollee Howes, offers recommendations to reinvigorate a national conversation about the status and working conditions of the early childhood teaching workforce.
Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages provides a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to 25 years ago and calls attention to persistent features of early childhood jobs that require a new policy approach, namely:
  • low wages,
  • the absence of a rational wage structure,
  • the low value accorded to educational attainment,
  • pervasive economic insecurity and
  • extensive reliance on public income supports resulting from unlivable wages

You can download the full report or executive summary on the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment website.

One of the four For Our Babies campaign pillars is High Quality Infant/Toddler care:

  • Child care regulations that ensure that care is provided in safe, engaging, and intimate settings.
  • Training, compensation, and professional stature for infant and toddler teachers at the same level as K-12 teachers.
  • Childcare subsidies for all families

Sign our pledge to help us create a loud cry on behalf of babies and those who care for them!

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News Roundup November 19

The First Solid Foods for American Babies Depends Very Much on The Mother’s Socioeconomic Background This recent study, “Sociodemographic differences and infant dietary patterns,” was published last month in Pediatrics. Scientists at the University of Buffalo studied the first solid foods eaten by American babies in their first year to find insight into whether or not they will develop obesity as they get older, as well as slower gain in length-for-age scores from 6 to 12 months. “We found that differences in dietary habits start very early,” says Xiaozhong Wen, MBBS, PhD, assistant professor in the UB Department of Pediatrics and lead author on the paper.  “From six to twelve-months is a critical period for babies, it’s when infants learn the tastes of different foods,” he says. The UB researchers found that dietary patterns of children aged 6 and 12 months old vary according to the racial, ethnic and educational backgrounds of their mothers. Read more about their findings here.

Early Literacy is Found to Rely More on Quality than Quantity of Words A new study presented at the White House conference “Bridging the Word Gap” found that among 2-year-olds from low-income families, quality interactions involving words were a far better predictor of language skills at age 3 than any other factor, including the number of words a child heard. Lead author of this study, Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek of Temple University says, “It’s not just about shoving words in. It’s about having these fluid conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.”  Read the New York Times article here.

Diet and Exercise During Pregnancy has Benefits In this study, the largest in the world of its kind, researchers at the University of Adelaide found that overweight and obese women who received diet and lifestyle advice and interventions during pregnancy had significant benefits and outcomes for babies. “Our hope is that by following some simple, practical and achievable lifestyle advice, pregnant women can improve their health and the outcomes for their babies. We would, of course, recommend that these lifestyle changes be adopted as much as possible before women become pregnant,” Dr Grivell says. You can find the full article here.

Pre-eclampsia May Not be Caused by the Placenta, but by Meeting the Oxygen Demands of the Fetus The findings of this study from research at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, suggest Pre-eclampsia may be caused by problems meeting the oxygen demands of the growing fetus and the researchers are calling for the name of this condition to be changed. “Referring to it as hypertension caused by pregnancy, rather than the historically outdated name of pre-eclampsia, would mean that women worldwide could be better informed and counseled about the condition”, said a consultant cardiologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne. Read more about this research and position here.

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



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Raising of America: Successful Sneak Preview with Panel Discussion in San Diego


Over 300 San D20141022_163645-SMILEiego community members including educators, doctors, advocates, business colleagues and other leaders gathered at the beautiful new San Diego Central Library for a sneak preview of the PBS documentary “Raising of America: Early Childhood and the Future of the Nation”  and a moderated panel discussion.

The League of Women Voters of San Diego took the lead in planning this event along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Child Care Planning Council, First Five San Diego, the YMCA, the For Our Babies campaign and many others *(see complete list of 20+ sponsors below). Donations covered a lovely hosted reception before the screening as well as coffee and dessert after, all catered by the Art Institute of California San Diego Culinary Institute. Each attendee was given a complimentary copy of “For Our Babies: Ending the Invisible Neglect of America’s Infants.”


A moderated panel discussion after the sneak preview included Congresswoman Susan A. Davis, 53rd 20141022_171055Congressional District, California, U.S. House of Representatives; Suzanne Flint, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library; Pradeep Gidwani, M.D., M.P. H. of the America Academy of Pediatrics, California Chapter 3; and Teresa Wolownik, Senior Director of Benefits and Health Services, Qualcomm Incorporated. Participants wrote questions for the panel on cards found in their folder of information from the sponsoring organizations. The questions were collected and drawn upon for the panel discussion. A big takeaway was that we know too much to not take action. Congresswoman Susan A. Davis said it very simply “The public needs to be more demanding and ask (legislators) the question of why aren’t you passing laws to help our children?”

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.27.11 AM

20141022_18553020141022_195629Raising of America Launch Events are being planned right now nationwide. You can find a current list of launch event locations on their website. Knowing that the For Our Babies campaign has pledge signatures from people in every single state saying they agree that we must promote healthier beginnings for all babies in the U.S., we are asking advocates to see how they can participate and help make each of the events successful (or if one isn’t planned in your state consider planning an event yourself! Find information on the Raising of America website).

Take a look at the list of who is planning an event in your area and connect with them. Tell them about and our participation in the San Diego event. Ask them to consider For Our Babies: Ending the Invisible Neglect of America’s Infants as a resource for participants. This book is a really nice companion to the Raising of America documentary. It is chock-full of research as well as includes a full chapter devoted to recommended supports and services for babies and their families (by the way, this chapter is available for free download).  Invite participants at the launch events to read the For Our Babies book and host a discussion with others. Upon request Bookclubs or discussion groups may schedule a Q & A Skype conversation with the author, Dr. Lally, himself! 20141022_201221

We really hope you will participate in this large scale movement to engage the public all across the U.S. in conversation about early childhood. If you want more information and/or would like to talk about these or other ideas, please contact Julie Weatherston at

Let’s be more demanding about babies and get laws passed to help them!

*Co-Sponsors for the San Diego launch event included: The League of Women Voters of San Diego, The American Academy of Pediatrics, Child Care and Development Planning Council, First 5 San Diego, For Our Babies, The Art Institute of California San Diego, Educational Enrichment Systems, Reach Out and Read San Diego, Child Development Associates, Inc, Ninth District PTA, Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood, San Diego Regional Chamber, YMCA Childcare Resource Service, San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, South Bay Community Services, Early Edge California, San Diego Public Library, San Diego Chapter Brady Campaign, Results, Qualcomm, Inc, Kaplan Early Learning Company, Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee [MAAC] and Education Synergy Alliance.

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ZERO TO THREE’S Beyond the Word Gap: Multimedia Resources and Tools

trackZERO TO THREE’s Beyond the Word Gap is a multimedia web portal designed to provide parents, professionals, and policymakers the resources they need to close the word gap and support early language and literacy. As policymakers turn their attention to closing this gap and improving the school readiness of low-income children, Beyond the Word Gap highlights the critical role that close, nurturing relationships with trusted adults play in supporting not only children’s early language skills, but all aspects of development.

The resources included in Beyond the Word Gap are available in English and Spanish and include mobile apps, interactive online tools, videos, infographics, podcasts, policy materials, and more. A key feature of the Beyond the Word Gap web portal is ZERO TO THREE’s new, free app, Let’s Play!, which provides parents and caregivers easy, fun ideas for engaging babies and toddlers during daily routines, emphasizing the importance of making all activities a language-rich experience.

Check out their website:

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Guest Blog: Place Matters by Charles Bruner



by Charles Bruner

The For Our Babies campaign has established four important policy pillars for very young children (prenatal care, paid leave, well baby care and quality infant toddler care) as well as calling needed attention to policies to promote healthy development in the earliest (birth through two) years. These pillars are applicable to young children wherever they live. At the same time, they are even more important – and may need to be augmented and expanded upon – in our country’s poorest neighborhoods.

Over the last fifty years, there have been multiple efforts to rebuild poor neighborhoods. Since the War on Poverty, these have included federal community action programs, urban renewal and urban revitalization efforts, empowerment zones and enterprise communities, promise neighborhoods, and an array of foundation-sponsored comprehensive community initiatives. Most of these place-based efforts, however, have focused primarily upon housing and economic development (physical and economic capital) and adult job training and work-related supports (human capital).

The characteristics of many of the poorest neighborhoods, however, suggest a different emphasis – focusing upon very young children and creating space and opportunities for their healthy growth and development.

First, poor neighborhoods are rich in young children. Census tracts with the highest rates of overall poverty (excluding college student tracts) have much higher proportions of very young children. That means they also require more safe and family friendly play areas and gathering spots and opportunities for early learning, as well as formal early care and education programs and services.

Second, poor neighborhoods are homes to a much larger share of the country’s immigrant and minority populations. This means they require services and supports that are culturally and linguistically responsive to them and that themselves have diverse staff and leaders.

Third, poor neighborhoods are older, more congested, and with more environmental hazards. This means that additional investments often are needed to remove those hazards and establish modern, 21st century spaces for child and families to grow and develop.

Finally, of course, poor neighborhoods are home to young children who are establishing their lifelong trajectories for growth and development and need nurturing and support from their families, neighborhoods, and communities. When children are very young, their lives are most affected and bounded by their immediate home and neighborhood settings, as they begin to explore their world. Poor families in poor neighborhoods want their children to grow into economically successful adults, but they need additional help in establishing those opportunities.

The challenge is for public policies to truly work to strengthen and support families in their aspirations for their young children, starting but not ending with the four pillars outlined in the For Our Babies campaign.

In the short term, it may not be immediately possible to raise the earnings and income levels for adults in those neighborhoods to the median income level for the state (or even above the poverty line), but it is imperative that the young children in those neighborhoods, and their families, see that their opportunity for health, education, growth, and success is there to achieve the American dream.

In the end, securing the future in poor neighborhoods is as much about community building as it is about individual service strategies. Policies work best when they enable parents to be their child’s first teacher, safety officer, nurse, and guide to the world – and this means opportunities for families, within their own neighborhoods, to do so.


Charles Bruner is Director of the Child and Family Policy Center and heads evaluation work for the BUILD Initiative. He is author of Village Building and School Readiness: Closing Opportunity Gaps in a Diverse Society, which describes exemplary programs which support families in strengthening the environments for their youngest members.

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News Roundup October 13th

Benefits for Babies Exposed to Two Languages A team of investigators and clinician-scientists in Singapore and internationally have found that exposure to dual languages in infancy can have cognitive advantages for children. The generalized cognitive advantages emerge early and are not specific to any particular language. Read more here.

Exposure of Pregnant Women to Certain Phenols May Disrupt Growth of Boys A recent study has indicated that exposure to certain phenols (chemical compounds) during pregnancy, may disrupt growth of boys during fetal growth and the first years of life. This was true for commonly used preservatives called parabens, used in cosmetics and healthcare products, and the antibacterial agent and pesticide triclosan, found in some toothpastes and soaps. Bisphenol A was not included. Read more here.

Economic Disparities Impact Infant Health New research out of the University of Colorado, Denver and published online recently in the American Journal of Human Biology, has shown that higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol can be found during pregnancy in women from poorer economic conditions. These women also give birth to infants with elevated levels of cortisol, which can put the infants at risk for diseases in adulthood. Read story here.

Toddlers Guide Their Behavior to Avoid Angering Adults A study out of the University of Washington found that toddlers as young as 15 months can detect anger when watching other people’s social interactions and then use that emotional information to regulate their own behavior. The study is the first evidence that children this young are capable of using multiple cues to understand the motivations of the people around them. Read about this study here.

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

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Early Identification Guide & Resources

Guest Blog by Cindy Arstein- Kerslake

EarlyIDThe Center for Disease Control reports that the incidence of autism is now 1 in every 68 children. Research shows that early identification and early intervention is the most effective way to address developmental delays. The Early Identification page of the California Making Access Possible (MAP) for Inclusion & Belonging website was developed in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Learn the Signs Act Early (LTSAE) Grant partners in California. The goal of the grant, implemented in 2013, was to promote distribution of the free CDC materials on developmental milestones to aid families, early care and education providers, early interventionists, home visitors, health care providers and others in identifying the early signs of a developmental delay. To summarize the key components of early identification, the LTSE grant partners created a three-page Early Identification Guide.

The Guide shows a color-coded graphic with the key components of early identification that match more detailed explanations on a flow chart that follows on the next two pages. The key components include (1) “Developmental Education and Observation” referring to the need for families and service providers to understand and observe developmental milestones (2) “Developmental Screening,” which identifies potential “Developmental Concerns” through validated screening tools and describes next steps depending on the results of the screening (3) “Community Resources and Supports” that help families connect to the services their children need when “Developmental Concerns” are identified through screening.

The Early Identification web page categorizes information and web links by topic to provide a well-rounded set of resources to support families and providers to “Act Early” to address concerns.

  • Healthy Development: Videos and resources tailored to specific audiences that provide educational resources on developmental milestones and early identification.
  • Working with Families: Resources for building relationships with families.
  • When Concerns Arise: “How To” educational tools for talking with families about developmental concerns identified by a service provider or screening tool.
  • Developmental Screening: Resources describing the screening process and recommended screening tools from both the CDC and the new federal initiative, Birth to 5: Help Me Thrive.
  • Referral for Evaluation and Assessment: How to make a referral for evaluation and assessment and the agencies that provide evaluation and assessment.
  • Community Resources/Support for FamiliesResources and links to organizations and agencies that support families of children with identified disabilities, with developmental concerns or who are at risk for developmental concerns.

For more information and to sign up for their mailing list, visit the California MAP to Inclusion & Belonging website.

Cindy Arstein-Kerslake has worked as a research and evaluation consultant in the field of early intervention and early mental health for the past 12 years. She currently works with WestEd’s Center for Child and Family Studies on the MAP* to Inclusion & Belonging (Making Access Possible) project.

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