Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Those who know me in my personal life know that I am a big fan and proponent of exclusive and extended breastfeeding. When I had my first child, I was personally dedicated to making breastfeeding a success, regardless of the effort involved. After 3 months of nearly complete torture, we managed to get a solid breastfeeding relationship launched, and I was able to continue for multiple years.

These days, I am on baby number two and finding the experience to be much easier the second time around. I feel very fortunate in this. The process finally seems “natural.” I know that many women do not find breastfeeding to be easy and natural, but the benefits of sticking it out can be substantial.

Today, I came across a fascinating article on a new study highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding on infant brain development. Check out the press release here.

Researchers took infants and divided them into groups based on their primary food source – exclusive breastfeeding, exclusive formula feeding, and combined breastfeeding and formula feeding.  The infants were given an MRI to evaluate structural and functional differences in their brains.

Results suggested that infants who were exclusively breastfed had more growth in areas of their brain involved in language, emotional functioning, and general cognition.  They also had increased myelination compared to the other groups.  Larger amounts of myelin help the brain process information more quickly and efficiently.

As a science nerd and breastfeeding fan, this study really validates all the frustration and effort I (and countless other women) have put into making breastfeeding a success.  There is also some evidence in the study that including some breastfeeding gives kids an edge, although not as strong as exclusively breastfeeding.

Of course, as always, it is important to realize that correlation does not necessarily imply causation.  Other factors may be responsible for the association.  And certainly, giving your child formula does not condemn them to a life of being dull and stunted in their growth. In all honesty, I was exclusively formula fed as a baby in the days before DHA was actively added to formulas, and I managed to get a Ph.D. as an adult.  So many other things influence general cognitive abilities that one choice about feeding as an infant is not a complete determinant of later ability.

But, for those women who are struggling with frustration and self-doubt in their breastfeeding relationship – this study suggests that it is worthwhile to stick it out as much as you can.


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I was a bit appalled at the results and video in this post on the filthiness of McDonald’s playplaces:


But I have to say kudos to the mom who put this together – who also happens to be a developmental psychologist – for launching her campaign to get these play structures cleaned up.  Since my little guy is still a bit too small to play on the equipment at McDonald’s, I haven’t yet been in the position of having to make a decision about whether to allow him to play in these structures.  I’ll definitely be thinking twice about it now.

Here’s the full video:

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Obesity and CPS

I just read a somewhat unsettling article on Yahoo! News today about whether parents of extremely obese children should have their children removed and placed in foster care for neglect.  Check out the article here:


Apparently the hubbub is being sparked by an editorial appearing in this week’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), in which a respected pediatrician advocates state involvement in cases of severe obesity in kids.

It’s a provocative issue – on the one hand, some of the cases detailed in the Yahoo! News article do demonstrate improvements in weight after removing kids to foster care with foster families who implement diet and exercise restrictions.  On the other hand, no mention is made of the long-term psychological effects of separating kids from their parents.  And, as any good student of psychology knows, relationships with caregivers are important and disruptions have long-term consequences.

Certainly in cases of clear verbal, physical, and emotional abuse we’ve reached a point in society where it is considered acceptable and commendable to step in and protect the child from abuses.  The question is – is having an obese child a sign that you are abusive or neglectful as a parent?  I’m sure it depends on the case and the details.  Certainly there are likely families with extremely obese children where a change of environment may be the best solution.  But who makes those decisions?  If obesity were the only significant issue, I would find it difficult to advocate for removal from the home.   Ultimately, I would hope that if it comes to it, most families in this situation would be given support and interventions to help improve health and maintain the family intact.

Interesting things to ponder on a Thursday morning…  What do you think?

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Earlier this week, I ran across this interesting article on the American Psychological Association website (from the July issue of the Monitor on Psychology):


The article summarizes recent research on a new construct in psychology – the idea of “self-compassion.”  Having self-compassion is essentially defined as being able to be kind to yourself when you make mistakes, understanding that you’re only human.  Kristin Neff, Ph.D., the psychologist who devised the construct and coined the term, argues that it consists of being able to be easy on yourself, being able to see your experiences in light of the general human condition, and being aware enough of yourself and your condition to be able to be kind to yourself.

Neff originally set out to discover an alternative to the popular notion of “self-esteem.”  While high self-esteem has long been touted as a positive quality that we must encourage in our children, it’s also been associated with negative qualities such as increased narcissism.

Interestingly, Neff and others have so far found no negative outcomes associated with increased self-compassion.  They have looked at whether people who are too easy on themselves become complacent or over-indulgent, but so far nothing negative has been shown to be associated with self-compassion.  I’m interested to see whether psychotherapy that focuses on increasing self-compassion will be shown to be effective in treating problems like anxiety and depression.

I think we moms should sit up and pay attention to research findings like this for a couple of reasons.  First, given the overwhelmingly positive findings around the benefits of having self-compassion, we should be encouraged to work on giving ourselves a break more often.  I know as a mom it’s really easy to compare, to be hard on ourselves, and to focus on ways we don’t measure up.  For a neurotic perfectionist like myself, being kinder to myself is sometimes a tall order.  But, not only may we feel the effects of positivity in our own lives, our children’s lives are also going to be positively affected.  And second, helping our children develop a healthy sense of self-compassion will likely serve them well in life, too.  I know I would much rather see my child develop into someone who can own his mistakes and use them for growth rather than being someone who beats himself up constantly for small errors.

Certainly this line of research is still fairly new, and more work needs to be done to determine whether and how we can best do all of this.  But until then, it’s something to keep in mind, because certainly a little self-compassion goes a long way.

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Because we’re masochists, my husband and I decided to take our toddler to one of those indoor bounce house places today to take advantage of a half-price sale on admission.  I had tried taking the kiddo to a similar place when he was still a beginner at the whole walking thing.  At that point, he had a difficult time staying upright or doing much of anything beyond sitting and crawling a few feet in the bouncers.  So, we mostly played with a few toys on the floor while socializing with friends.

Today was a little different.

Now that my little munchkin can move around with ease, he sees the structures and wants to climb, but he’s still too little and unsteady to do it on his own.  So, this means that mommy gets to climb in and do all of the bounce house activities, too.

I kind of figured this might be the case, so I was glad that it worked out for my husband to be off today to come and help out.  Of course, wouldn’t you know that all the fun toddler bouncers had weight limits that were just below my husband’s weight and mostly just above my weight.  So guess who got to climb through all the structures?

Yeah.  Mommy.

In his defense, my husband did try to go through the obstacle course with us, and it was a little unnerving just how much the two of us displaced air in that bouncer.  Yikes.

It’s all well and good until the kid wants to go down the slides.  I don’t know what they were thinking when they made the ladders on these bounce houses, but man, it is HARD to balance on the narrow little foot rests, hold on to the handles, and still carry a 24 lb. excited, squirming toddler in one arm.  I just spend the entire harrowing climb praying that I make it to the top without falling and injuring both of us.

But, it is all worth it to see the smiles when he enjoys the rush of sliding down the slide.  And, for some reason, he decided that he had to slide backward on his belly, so I got to see his cute little face the whole way down.  Too precious!

I just hope I still feel the same way tomorrow when I have trouble getting out of bed from all the sore muscles.  I’m not sure some of these have ever been used….

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Cabin Fever

We have it.  Bad.

For some reason it has seemed particularly bad with my toddler’s most recent illness.  As I blogged earlier in the week, he was diagnosed with croup over the weekend. We’ve been debating and researching like mad to determine at what point we can take him back out in public without infecting children in a 100 yard radius.

I think part of the problem is that croup sounds like a really scary diagnosis to me.  For whatever reason, the first thing I thought of when I heard the word croup was the scene from Anne of Green Gables where Anne is called to Diana Barry’s house in the middle of the night to help Diana care for her younger sister with croup.  In the scene, croup seemed to be a fairly dire illness, and the girls practically poured ipecac into the poor child to break the cough.  Later, Diana’s mother is overcome with gratitude for Anne because her child’s life was saved that night.  So, now my mental association is that croup is a horrible, dangerous disease.  I don’t think I’m alone in my projections about the diagnosis.  When telling a friend about the diagnosis, she asked, “do people actually have that anymore?”  I think she must have also been a fan of Anne.

I’ve also found the information on the internet to be a bit confusing.  Possibly this is because a variety of different viruses and other respiratory issues can cause croup.  Some sites say that once the fever is gone, the contagiousness is gone.  Others say that the child is contagious until the cough is gone.

So, I think I’ve been a bit more cautious with taking my child out in public than I may be with a “simple” cold.  Which is interesting, because comparatively, he seems much less sick and seems much more lively than he has with other illnesses.  He hasn’t even had a fever.  For a toddler who is used to being on the go, visiting different places, playing in the parks, etc. on a daily basis, being stuck at home has become a bit of a drag.

In light of all the different messages and information about croup that I’ve been getting over the past 5 days, I think I’m going to default to my usual approach to life – make it up as I go along.  Since we’ve been fever-free, I think I’m going to split the difference and go out once the cough sounds less like that of a 40-year smoker.  So, I think tomorrow we may finally break out of the house.  Hopefully this will happen before he manages to break something in the house….

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It’s never a good thing to start the weekend out with noticing suspicious physical symptoms in your toddler.  At first he started with very intermittent, but very nasty-sounding coughs.  By Saturday, we had progressed to full-on coughing and wheezing fits.

So, we dutifully loaded him up and drove to the nearest urgent care facility.  Since our son had been hospitalized earlier in the year due to complications from RSV, we were understandably nervous about allowing wheezing to go on unchecked.

After a brief exam, it was determined that my son had a bit of croup.  Armed with a prescription for a mild steroid to reduce inflammation and instructions to run a cold mist humidifier, we left the office much more calm and in control, ready to fight off the relatively minor virus that had taken up residence in my baby.

I have to say that I greatly appreciated the on-call pediatrician reassuring us that we made the right call in bringing him to the doctor.  It’s always such an agonizing decision about whether or not to go to the pediatrician, particularly on a weekend when the usual doctor is unreachable. I always wonder if I should ride out the symptoms and continue trying home remedies or if I should bite the bullet, pay my co-pay, and ask the doctor directly.

On some level, I think I’m overly concerned about becoming “that” parent.  You know – the one who rushes to the pediatrician with every sniffle and calls to ask every question that crosses his/her mind?  I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time or my co-pay money, but at the same time, I don’t want to be that “other” parent.  You know – the one who never thinks anything is severe enough to warrant consulting the doctor, leading to near misses as the child develops illnesses that could have been prevented or treated earlier?

So, we may have been a little premature in rushing to the doctor after the first 2 or 3 major coughing and wheezing fits, but in the end, we came away with something to help him feel better.  And, really, his comfort is most important.

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