Folic acid linked to autism risk
This week in parenting news:
Folic acid and autism: You know that folic acid supplements are key in early pregnancy for helping to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. Now, researchers in Norway are reporting that they may also help reduce the risk of autism. In their analysis of data on more than 85,000 children born between 2002 and 2008, they found a 40 percent reduction in risk of having a child with autism among mothers who took folic-acid supplements four weeks before getting pregnant and in the eight weeks after conception. So it’s important for any woman trying to get pregnant to start taking a supplement, even before getting that positive pregnancy test. Consult your doctor about how much you need.
Good TV versus bad TV: There’s been plenty of research on the hazards of letting kids spend too much time in front of the tube. But a new study found that limiting preschool-age kids’ exposure to violence on TV and increasing their time with educational programming that encourages empathy can reduce their aggression toward others. Pro-social shows, such as Nickelodeon’s “Wonder Pets!” and NBC’s “My Friend Rabbit,” focus on cooperation, loyalty and friendship. Switching the channel away from more violent, adult-targeted shows to ones like those may improve your child’s behavior.
Skin-to-skin contact helps mom, too: New mothers are encouraged to snuggle skin-to-skin with their newborn babies because the practice has been shown to help promote bonding, improve babies’ sleep and reduce crying. But recent research has found that skin-to-skin contact can also help mom avoid postpartum depression. A study found that women who had six hours of skin-to-skin contact during the first week, and at least two hours during the next month, reported fewer symptoms of depression. Saliva samples from the moms confirmed that they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than moms who had no skin-to-skin time.
In praise of effort: We all think our kids are the smartest, cutest, cleverest beings alive. But, according to new research, we shouldn’t tell them that. Praising a baby or toddler for their efforts, instead of what we perceive as innate talents, is what increases motivation and helps give kids better strategies for handling failures down the road. So instead of praising your child personally, by saying something like, “You’re so good at baseball,” try praising what he did by telling him, “That was a good throw.”
Cut the caffeine: There’s been some debate over how much — if any — caffeine is safe to consume during pregnancy. Previously, high levels of caffeine consumption have been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. Now a new study has found an association between more moderate caffeine intake and lower birth weights. For every 100 mg of caffeine consumed per day, the researchers saw a reduction of 21 to 26 grams in birth weights. Low birth weight can set a baby up for numerous health problems, including respiratory issues, infections and developmental delays.
Stressed-out kids more likely to be obese: Anyone who turns to cookies in times of stress won’t be surprised to find out that some kids may be predisposed to do the same. A team of researchers studied a group of 5- to 9-year olds, measuring their cortisol levels while under stress and then giving them free access to snacks. They found that those whose cortisol levels stayed high -- in other words, they did not recover well after a stressful incident -- had the highest BMIs and ate the most calories even when they reported being not hungry.
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