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MAJOR STUDY: The longer babies breastfeed, the more they achieve in life!

March 18, 2015 Leave a comment

“Brazilian study of 6,000 babies from all backgrounds since 1982 finds those who breastfed were more intelligent, spent longer in education and earned more.” The Guardian US Edition

Breastfed babies are more likely to turn into well-educated and higher-earning adults, according to a major long-term study.

Researchers in Brazil have followed nearly 6,000 babies from birth for the past three decades, enabling them for the first time to get an idea of the long-term effects of breastfeeding. Nearly 3,500 of them, now 30-year-old adults, accepted an invitation to be interviewed and sit IQ tests for the purpose of the study. Those who had been breastfed proved to be more intelligent, had spent longer at school and earned more than those who had not been. And the longer they were breastfed as a baby, the better they tended to be doing.

It is already known that breastfeeding can increase a child’s IQ by a small amount. The question that Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta from the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil wanted to answer was whether this translated into greater intelligence and better prospects as an adult.

“Our study provides the first evidence that prolonged breastfeeding not only increases intelligence until at least the age of 30 years but also has an impact both at an individual and societal level by improving educational attainment and earning ability,” he said.

It is not just the age of the participants that makes this study unusual. Horta says it is free of the major complication of most breastfeeding studies because, when it began in 1982, it was not just the more affluent and educated mothers who breastfed in Brazil. Breastfeeding was not limited to one socio-economic group. It was, he says, evenly distributed across the social classes. So the higher achievers at the age of 30 did not come from better-off homes.

Nonetheless, in analyzing their results, now published in the Lancet Global Health journal, they took account of family income at birth, parental schooling, genomic ancestry, maternal smoking during pregnancy, maternal age, birth weight and type of delivery to try to avoid any of those factors skewing the results.

They found that all the breastfed babies had greater intelligence, as measured by a standard IQ test, had spent more years in education and had higher earnings. But the longer they had been breastfed, the greater the benefits. Children who had been breastfed for 12 months had an IQ that was four points higher than those breastfed for less than a month, had nearly a year’s more schooling and earned around £70 a month more – about a third more than the average income level.

Horta acknowledged he could not completely rule out the possibility mothers who breastfed helped their babies’ development in other ways. “Some people say it is not the effect of breastfeeding but it is the mothers who breastfeed who are different in their motivation or their ability to stimulate the kids,” he told the Guardian.

But, he said, there is evidence from other studies of the nutritional value of mother’s milk, rich in long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential for brain growth. Some studies have suggested babies with a particular genotype are more likely to get the IQ benefit from breastfeeding than others. Horta and colleagues are now looking to see whether that applies in their cohort.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months is recommended by the World Health Organization. Horta said babies who had been breastfed for six months got most of the benefits enjoyed by those who were fed for longer. “Mothers should breastfeed for as long as possible,” he said, but he recognized that extended breastfeeding is not always easy for women. Less than a quarter of new mothers in the UK are still exclusively breastfeeding by the time the baby is six weeks old.

Dr Colin Michie, chair of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee, said: “It’s widely known that breastfed babies are better protected against chest and ear infections, are at less risk of sudden infant death and are less likely to become obese, but it’s interesting to see the benefits of breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time not only benefit the baby in the early years, but also translate into increased intelligence and improved earning ability later in life.

“It is important to note that breastfeeding is one of many factors that can contribute to a child’s outcomes, however, this study emphasizes the need for continued and enhanced breastfeeding promotion so expectant mothers are aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Furthermore, once mothers have given birth, we must ensure they are properly supported to continue breastfeeding for as long as they are able to.”

 

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Why do Babies Cry and How Does Our Response Impact Their Lives?

July 18, 2013 2 comments

Let’s think about this, “Why do babies cry?”

I propose they cry for 4 reasons: They cry when they are wet and uncomfortable; They cry when they are ill; They cry when they are hungry; They cry when they are tired. What happens when we don’t pick them up to cure their small problems? They cry louder and they cry longer. They cannot tell us what they want. They can only cry louder and longer until we stop and make them comfortable again.

I have heard some say, “Let them cry. If you pick them up every time they cry they will get used to it and not stop until you pick them up.” I am an adult and I cry sometimes.  When I cry I want someone to hold me in their arms, to soothe me, to let me know it’s going to be OK. I want to be comforted. That’s what babies want to know, “It’s going to be OK.” Babies must have their basic needs met; they must feel safe; and they must feel valued in order to develop and learn.They want to be held in someone’s arms. They want to be comforted. Uncomforted babies grow restless, insecure, and angry.

Attachments between parents and their babies begin developing at birth. These positive early attachments of holding, hugging, loving, and caring shape the wiring in the infant brain and establish patterns for how a baby will develop relationships as they grow older. The baby’s brain develops rapidly during the first year of birth and secure parental attachments supports wiring in the brain which enables the ongoing ability of the child to form healthy relationships. Children whose earliest attachments are negative or insecure experience continuing difficulty in developing healthy peer relationships.

Parental consistency is important to the social, emotional and cognitive development of babies and young children. Regularity, predictability, routines, orderliness, and establishing and enforcing limits contribute to a positive consistent environment. Repeated experiences in a consistent environment help strengthen networks of  connections in the brain. These connections form the foundation for the development of trust in others, self-esteem, behavior regulation, and many other abilities.

Go to the Mall on any afternoon, or walk the halls of any school, or look in your own social group and identify the ones who were left to cry louder and longer.

TED – Ideas Worth Spreading, Deb Roy

August 7, 2011 Leave a comment

“Imagine if you could record your life, everything you said, everything you did, available in a perfect memory store at your finger tips so you could go back and find memorable moments and relive them or sift through traces of time and discover patterns in your own life that previously had gone undiscovered.” 

This is what Deb Roy did at the birth of his son, whose every moment was recorded from birth to present day. He is the Founder and CEO of Bluefin Labs, an MIT spinoff. This is Deb Roy’s TED talk March, 2011.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences — the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer — TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

This has to be shared with my audience. It is truly one of the most remarkable video moments I have had. It takes about 20 minutes to watch but it is riveting.

Enjoy this amazing father and his amazing family. Hang in there the end is POWERFUL!

Deb Roy studies how children learn language, and designs machines that learn to communicate in human-like ways. On sabbatical from MIT Media Lab, he’s working with the AI company Bluefin Labs.

The Family; The Brain Boost!

November 16, 2010 2 comments

So far we have looked at The Family from several aspects; the Smallest School, the Beginning of the Beginning, a Serious Decision, the Uterine Environment and the Moment of Birth, and Postpartum Dads. In thinking about all of this I looked at my own story and how I came to understand the serious nature of birth and childhood. It is an important decision to bring another human life in the world. But the most important parental duty of all is to ensure that the new life in your family has a chance for reaching its full potential.

It doesn’t take a PhD to raise a child in a responsible, loving, family environment. It takes careful thought, selfless action, and parental bonding. Unfortunately for the newborn child, many parents have little understanding of the most crucial and yet often neglected aspect of a newborn life, Brain Development. It is not necessary to understand all of the intricate scientific brain stuff. It is only necessary to have an understanding of the family experiences parents can present which will boost brain growth. Then a common sense, practical approach to early childhood rearing provides the proficiencies that develop Brain Growth in a way that allows your infant to leap forward into their promise.

Let me explore with you some of the research and insights regarding newborn Brain Development, from the blog Early Childhood Brain Insights. These clearly illuminate the parental care and commitment each child must be given in order to reach their promise and full potential:

Did You Know This Mom & Dad?

• Most people do not yet know that 90% of children’s brains are developed in the first 5 years, and 85% in the first 3 years. The brain adapts and grows primarily based on the experiences a child has in     these years before they enter school!

• A developing brain will adapt to whatever happens repeatedly in the environment. For a brain to develop optimally, a child needs to have fun, interesting, loving experiences throughout the day.

• Environments that are chaotic, disorderly or have high levels of stress have a direct influence on how optimally a child’s emotional and thinking areas of the brain develops.

• The easiest time for the brain to learn a second language is during the pre-school years. Research indicates there may be additional benefits when learning multiple languages. Children can develop   better overall verbal skills, a better vocabulary, and sequencing abilities.

• The brain is ready to learn basic math skills in the pre-school years. It doesn’t occur from saying the numbers in order. It learns through doing comparisons of size and shape, and few and many. Connections will be made in the brain when this is done with real objects.

• Research demonstrates that nature helps the brain relax and restore itself after experiencing stress or negative emotions.

• The quality and quantity of exposure to nature directly affects the physical health of the brain.

• Even though the brain is making trillions of connections as an infant and toddler, it takes years throughout childhood and adolescence to organize it into a mature adult brain.

• The quality of the relationship an infant has with his or her parents has a direct impact on the physical development of the brain. This impacts the nature and extent of a child’s perceptions and capabilities.

• Loving interaction with people and exploration of objects is as necessary to a child’s brain development as food.

• By the time a baby is 6 months old the brain may have developed 1,000 trillion brain connections through experiences in their environment.

• A child has already developed a perception of self and their environment by 12 -18 months based on the relationship they have with their parents.

• Brain connections for language are developed through direct interaction with parents NOT through television and videos.

• Aggression, impulsiveness, and lack of empathy can result when a brain experiences repeated neglect, chaos, or violence.

• The brain does not like chaos. It feels more comfortable when it knows what to expect.

• The absence of consistent and quality experiences leads to a loss in brain potential.

• Physical play stimulates the emotion regulating areas in the brain.

• Once the brain is developed it takes much more repetition, time, and consistency to change what has already been hard wired.

• The brain is always changing and making new connections. However, it is more difficult to modify after it has been originally wired in the newborn.

None of the above is out of reach for any parent. Early Brain Development is NOT complicated and it makes an impact that affects every one of us, especially our children. It only takes time, love, and creative thought. Each child deserves a Brain Boost in their first years, without it they are destined for a life of mediocrity and boredom.

The Family; From the Uterine Environment to Moment of Birth

October 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Let’s talk about the uterine environment and the moment of birth.

What happens in the uterine environment at birth? Maybe if we had a clear perception of this moment in life we might have a better understanding of our child creation and the enormous responsibility that comes with parenting during conception, fetal growth, and infant health; all of which are essential before a child even begins their first step towards life.

Let’s look at the Latin word ‘infans’. It means ‘not speaking’ and hence the word infancy has come to mean the first year of childhood. Humans are born naked, helpless, and vulnerable. Humans have a long gestation period without obtaining great size or maturity at the time of birth. Another human peculiarity is the size of the brain, which weighs about 350 grams, or .772 pounds, at birth or is 10% of the average total body weight. The fetus adaptation from complete dependence upon the maternal uterine environment and placenta to the extra-uterine environment requires major changes in the infant body organs. Within a minute of the cessation of placental blood supply and the delivery from a watery to a gaseous environment, the infant lungs, heart, skin, and the alimentary, renal, and nervous systems undergo a series of dramatic functional changes.

During pregnancy the fetus depends on the mother for obtaining oxygen and nutrients, and for the excretion of carbon dioxide, heat, and other metabolic waste products through their combined bloodstreams. Upon birth the infant must fend for itself. More blood flow must be directed through the lungs for gas exchange, to the gut for nutrient absorption, to the kidneys for urine formation. But first and foremost, breathing must begin.

BREATHING:
Fetal breathing movements are necessary for normal lung development in the womb. The patterns of these movements are related to the ‘sleep’ and ‘awake’ states of the fetus but may also be affected by external factors such as maternal smoking, drinking, drug abuse, and unhealthy diets. Normal vaginally-delivered infants make their first breathing movements within 20 to 30 seconds from the emergence of the nose. Within 90 seconds of complete delivery most infants have started to breathe rhythmically.

CIRCULATION:
The circulation of the blood is drastically re-routed at birth. In the fetus there was relatively little blood flow through the lungs. Oxygenated blood reached the fetus from the placenta in the umbilical vein and joined the blood entering the right side of the heart. Most of this blood bypassed the lungs. After birth, the right ventricle must pump all the blood it receives through the lungs. This change is assisted by the onset of breathing itself. The expansion of the lungs with air reduces the resistance to flow in their blood vessels.

NUTRITION AND METABOLISM:
There is a continuum of nutrient supply by the mother from conception until after complete weaning. Even after weaning in most human societies, the mother is primarily responsible for helping the immature offspring to obtain adequate nutrition. The importance of optimal nutrition in human fetal and neonatal life is crucial in early life. Studies strongly indicate an increased incidence of hypertension, strokes, diabetes, and coronary artery disease in later life when the mother neglects her responsibilities for supplying healthy nutrition to her fetus and infant.

ENERGY:
The human infant has relatively large stores of lipid, carbohydrate, and important nutrient elements such as iron. After birth, fat and lactose supplied in the mother’s milk are the major sources of energy, whereas before birth glucose supplied by the placenta provided the energy for fetal growth. This abrupt transition in nutrient supply causes major challenges to the digestive, absorptive, and metabolic processes of the infant. Until lactation is established, stores of glycogen in the liver and muscles, and triglyceride fat, help to maintain the infant body temperature, metabolic activity, and tissue growth.

TEMPERATURE:
If the infant’s temperature falls, neural thermostats stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to release heat and  fatty acids from brown fat. Brown fat looks brown because its cells are full of mitochondria, which are cellular power-houses for the release of energy from fat; it is located mainly between the shoulder blades in the newborn infant and there is relatively little in later life. Maternal body heat, and covering the head and body of the infant with clothing to reduce heat and fluid loss, greatly reduce the energy and fluid needs of the newborn.

COLOSTRUM AND MILK:
Once the immediate needs for an adequate supply of oxygen have been met the infant normally within minutes begins to seek a supply of water and nutrients at the mother’s breast. During the first few days the mother supplies colostrum, which is specifically designed for her own infant in that it contains antibodies, cells, and other protective substances which will safeguard her infant from virtually all of the infections to which she has been previously exposed.

DIGESTION:
Over 90% of the fat present in human milk can be digested and absorbed by the infant intestine. Fat digestion is possible because lipases are present in the milk, and are also released from glands in the infant tongue. These enzymes remain active in the environment of the stomach. There are no digestive enzymes for protein in human milk in the infant’s stomach and duodenum. This is significant because there are important proteins in the milk, immunoglobulin and growth factors, which might otherwise be damaged before they can be absorbed from the intestine.

WEANING:
Weaning is the process of expanding the diet to include foods and drinks other than breast milk or infant formula. A Department of Health working group in 1994 recommended that most infants should not be given solid foods before the age of 4 months and that a mixed diet should be offered by the age of 6 months. Cow’s milk is not recommended as a main drink during infancy but during the second year it can make an important contribution to the intakes of several different nutrients and energy.

GROWTH:
Factors which influence growth are genetic, nutritional, endocrine, and psychosocial. Malnutrition, specific nutritional deficiencies, and disease can prevent children from achieving their genetic growth potential. They are completely dependent upon their parents for their nutritional needs and brain development through nutrition. At birth much of the underlying brain and neuroendocrine system development is equipped to integrate newborn infant body functions, but it is becoming evident that if there is failure during the first year of life to use and develop good patterns of response to a given stimulus from the environment, then there may be significant impairment in the ability to respond in later life to stresses both physical and emotional.

SUMMARY:
I propose we begin educating parents and children now, in the family and through courses in our public school system, in an understanding of the fetal uterine environment and the moment of birth. If we could sensitize this generation with an appreciation of the responsibilities they undertake when giving birth, perhaps they will begin to improve the next generation and we could begin to end this cycle of poverty and sloth in our society.


I owe my understanding of this subject to Forrester Cockburn, Emeritus Professor of Child Health at the University of Edinburgh and a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

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