Friday, May 25, 2007

Harvard Researchers Say Children Need Touching and Attention

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Harvard Researchers Say Children Need Touching and Attention by Alvin Powell, Contributing Writer, Harvard Gazette America's "let them cry" attitude toward children may lead to more fears and tears among adults, according to two Harvard Medical School researchers. Instead of letting infants cry, American parents should keep their babies close, console them when they cry, and bring them to bed with them, where they'll feel safe, according to Michael Commons and Patrice Miller, researchers at the Medical School's Department of Psychiatry. The pair examined child-rearing practices here and in other cultures and say the widespread American practice of putting babies in separate beds - even separate rooms - and not responding to their cries may lead to more incidents of post-traumatic stress and panic disorders among American adults. The early stress due to separation causes changes in infant brains that makes future adults more susceptible to stress in their lives, say Commons and Miller. "Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently," Commons said. "It changes the nervous system so they're sensitive to future trauma." Their work is unique because it takes a cross-disciplinary approach, examining brain function, emotional learning in infants, and cultural differences, according to Charles R. Figley, director of the Traumatology Institute at Florida State University and editor of The Journal of Traumatology. "It is very unusual but extremely important to find this kind of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research report," Figley said. "It accounts for cross-cultural differences in children's emotional response and their ability to cope with stress, including traumatic stress." ___________ "Parents should recognize that having their babies cry unnecessarily harms the baby permanently. It changes the nervous system so they're sensitive to future trauma." - Dr. Michael Commons, Dept of Psychiatry, Harvard ___________ Figley said their work illuminates a route of further study and could have implications for everything from parents' efforts to intellectually stimulate infants to painful practices such as circumcision. Commons has been a lecturer and research associate at the Medical School's Department of Psychiatry since 1987 and is a member of the Department's Program in Psychiatry and the Law. Miller has been a research associate at Harvard Medical School's Program in Psychiatry and the Law since 1994 and an assistant professor of psychology at Salem State College since 1993. She received master's and doctorate degrees in education from Harvard's Graduate School of Education. The pair say that American child-rearing practices are influenced by fears that children will grow up dependent. But parents are on the wrong track. Physical contact and reassurance will make children more secure when they finally head out on their own and make them better able to form their own adult relationships. "We've stressed independence so much that it's having some very negative side effects," Miller said. The two gained the spotlight in February when they presented their ideas at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting in Philadelphia. In a paper presented at the meeting, Commons and Miller contrasted American child-rearing practices with those of other cultures, particularly the Gusii tribe of Kenya. Gusii mothers sleep with their babies and respond rapidly when the baby cries. "Gusii mothers watching videotapes of U.S. mothers were upset by how long it took these mothers to respond to infant crying," Commons and Miller said in their paper on the subject. The way we are brought up colors our entire society, Commons and Miller say. Americans in general don't like to be touched and pride themselves on independence to the point of isolation, even when undergoing a difficult or stressful time. Despite the conventional wisdom that babies should learn to be alone, Miller said she believes many parents "cheat," keeping the baby in the room with them, at least initially. In addition, once the child can crawl around, she believes many find their way into their parents' room on their own. American parents shouldn't worry about this behavior or be afraid to baby their babies, Commons and Miller said. Parents should feel free to sleep with their infant children, to keep their toddlers nearby, perhaps on a mattress in the same room, and to comfort a baby when it cries. "There are ways to grow up and be independent without putting babies through this trauma," Commons said. "My advice is to keep the kids secure so they can grow up and take some risks." Besides fears of dependence, other factors have helped form our childrearing practices, including fears that children would interfere with sex if they shared their parents' room and doctors' concerns that a baby would be injured by a parent rolling on it if it shared their bed, the pair said. The nation's growing wealth has helped the trend toward separation by giving families the means to buy larger homes with separate rooms for children. The result, Commons and Miller said, is a nation that doesn't like caring for its own children, a violent nation marked by loose, nonphysical relationships. "I think there's a real resistance in this culture to caring for children, "Commons said. "Punishment and abandonment has never been a good way to get warm, caring, independent people." Reprinted with permission of Dr. Commons.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Importance of Breastmilk

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies be exclusively breastfed, with no supplements, for the first six months of life. They also advise that breastfeeding continue for 12 months or longer if mutually desired. The AAP recognizes that, “Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding and is species-specific; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it… Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns.”
Colostrum is a yellow, sticky fluid, which is secreted during the first 3-5 days postpartum:
It contains over sixty components, thirty of which are exclusive to human milk.
Colostrum continues to offer the immunities that were available to your baby via the placenta.
It is high in protein, as well as fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
Colostrum contains high amounts of sodium, potassium, chloride and cholesterol thought to encourage optimal development of your baby’s heart, brain and central nervous system.
The yellow color of colostrum is due to B-carotene, one of the many antioxidants present.
Colostrum’s natural laxative benefit encourages the passage of meconium, which reduces the risk of jaundice in your baby.
This fluid is rich in immunoglobulins, which protect your infant from viruses and infections.
It continues to be secreted in breastmilk for up to two weeks postpartum.
Human milk is a complex living, biological fluid. It contains just the right amounts of nutrients, in the right proportions for your baby. It is processed gently through the baby’s digestive system so that these important nutrients are easily absorbed. Breastmilk’s features include special factors and hormones that contribute to the optimal health, growth and development of infants:
Human milk contains at least one hundred ingredients not found in any artificial infant milk.
It resembles blood more than milk due to the many live cells called macrophages. These cells kill bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Lactoferrin coats and protects your baby’s intestines. When combined with lysozyme, they have a direct antibiotic effect on bacteria such as E. coli and staphylococci.
Secretory IgA, along with other immunoglobulins protect the ears, nose and throat, as well as the GI track against foreign viruses and bacteria. These antibodies are capable of altering their protective qualities to fight any allergens, germs or bacteria that may be present in your environment. This action decreases your infant’s chances of developing allergies, respiratory infections, otitis media (ear infections) and asthma.
Lactose accounts for the majority of carbohydrates in human milk. It enhances calcium absorption and metabolizes into galactose and glucose, which supplies energy to your infant’s rapidly growing brain.
Human milk contains numerous long-chain fatty acids including DHA and ARA. These lipids are responsible for cell membrane integrity in the brain, retinas and other parts of your baby’s body.
Breastmilk changes during the course of a feeding and throughout the day. It is secreted first as foremilk, which satisfies your baby’s initial thirst. Hindmilk is secreted as the feeding progresses. It is high in fat and calories to promote growth and development in your baby.
Preterm milk differs markedly from full term milk by offering premature babies longer access to colostrum, higher levels of IgA and other antiinfective properties. Preterm milk also contains greater concentrations of triglycerides and long-chain fatty acids. These qualities offer the premature infant optimal nutrition for his short-term energy needs as well as for his long-term neurological and visual development. Preterm milk also offers the best protection from necrotizing enterocolits (NEC), an often fatal condition in premature babies.
All the research on human milk confirms it’s many advantages. Babies who are breastfed have a decreased chance of developing:
Respiratory and ear infections
Allergies and atopic diseases
Urinary tract infections
Diarrheal infections, gastrointestinal reflux and NEC
Bacterial meningitis
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
Childhood lymphomas such as Hodgkin’s Disease and Leukemia
Current research indicates that human milk’s protective qualities last well into adulthood. Adults who were breastfed as infants have a decreased risk of developing:
Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's Disease
Diabetes, Heart Disease and Obesity
Multiple Sclerosis
Breast Cancer

Dramatic Visual

A baby dies every 30 seconds from unsafe bottle feeding. The photograph above tells the tragic story of the fatalities that occur due to unsafe bottle feeding."Use my picture if it will help" said this mother. The children are twins, the bottle-fed child is a girl who died the day after this photograph was taken by UNICEF in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her brother was breastfed and thrived. The mother was incorrectly told she could not breastfeed both children. This horrific picture demonstrates the risk of artificial infant feeding, particularly where water supplies are unsafe. The expense of formula can lead to parents over-diluting it to make it last longer or using unsuitable milk powders or animal milks. In all countries breastfeeding provides immunity against infections. Despite these risks the baby food industry aggressively markets breastmilk substitutes encouraging mothers and health workers to favour artifical infant feeding over breastfeeding. Such tactics break marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Nestlé, the world's largest food company, is found to be responsible for more violations than any other company and is the target of an international boycott.