Parents: Be Wary

Sugar in GramsTwo articles recently drifted into our email accounts that highlight what we believe is a profoundly important subject for parents.

The first is an extremely helpful general article from Canadian Dr. Paul Roumeliotis on overall dental care for infants and children.

He makes a number of helpful suggestions for parents including:
• How to manage teething pain
• How to clean newly developed teeth
• When to use toothpaste and how much
• When to use dental floss
• And, teaching your children proper dental care and oral hygiene.

Finally and significantly he makes the point that while progress has been made in preventing cavities, the current rate of cavities in children is still high – and so, too, are the consequences.

“Aside from causing the child local pain and an infection that can sometimes spread to the eye and brain, we now know that dental cavities and poor oral hygiene are also linked to higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions. So proper oral hygiene is not just for the sake of the teeth, mouth, and gums; it contributes to overall health and wellness,” he writes.

Not surprisingly, the primary cause of cavities in young children is sugar. Sugar in milk, apple juice, etc. Dr. Roumeliotis also cautions parents avoid the particularly harmful practice of putting a child to bed with a bottle where the sugar coats the teeth for hours.

On the heels of this helpful and practical article is a new study from Australia where scientists at University of New South Wales found that sugar can be as damaging to the brain as extreme stress or abuse.

Here is what the study authors found:

“The changes we observed to the region of the brain that controls emotional behaviour and cognitive function were more extensive than those caused by extreme early life stress.
It is known that adverse experiences early in life, such as extreme stress or abuse, increase the risk of poor mental health and psychiatric disorders later in life.”

In other words, excessive sugar consumption by infant and children can result in actual, adverse changes in brain function.

Unwary parents can give their children excessive sugar unwittingly. Some trusted brands add enormous amounts of sugar to their products. Juice is presented as a healthful alternative to soda. And, so on.

As a parent, your best bet is to carefully read the packaging labels which indicate the amount of the sugar in the product. However, that information is presented in grams which means you have to understand the relationship of grams to teaspoons which is the way most of us understand sugar. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon of sugar. Remember this. It’s vitally important.

Heath and medical organizations recognize the importance of limiting sugar in diet and you can easily look those up by googling them. In one example, last year the World Health Organization recommended adults and children limit their total sugar intake to approximately 12 teaspoons of sugar daily. While making that recommendation, the organization said that limiting sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day would provide additional health benefits.

Now, here are some examples of sugar in popular fruit juices for toddlers and young children:

• 12 ounces of orange juice – 8 teaspoons of sugar
• 12 ounces of apple juice – 10 teaspoons of sugar
• 12 ounces of grape juice – 15 teaspoons of sugar

This stuff is scary. BE WARY.

Here is a wonderful youtube video that graphically demonstrates the point.

Baby Shower Do’s and Don’ts

babyshowergames_edited-1

We had some fun today thinking about baby shower games and were delighted to find that there are tons of them on the web. Some require a little crafty know-how, but many don’t.

One thing, though, we did notice is that most of the how-to and mommy blogs we visited start with the assumption that everyone enjoys these games. They don’t. So, if you’re planning a shower, spend some time thinking about your guests and whether they’d really appreciate playing admittedly hokey (but fun) games. It’s our experience that most will get into the spirit of things, but use some judgment when planning the shower.

A second point to consider is the type of game. We were a little appalled at some of the game suggestions. A recommended bingo game, for example, suggests filling out registry items in the blank squares and then checking them off as the mom-to-be opens her presents. The website recommending this touted it as “a classic shower game designed to engage guests in gift opening.”

Moms-to-be DO have needs and they have a lot of them. Infant clothes and accessories. Diapers. Bath tubs, towels and washcloths. Baby carriers. Blankets. And, so on and on and on. And, most givers of shower presents do want to give the expectant Mom what she needs. That’s the whole point of a shower.

There are plenty of ways to learn IN ADVANCE what Mom needs. Baby registries. Gift registries. And, of course, just asking her or a close friend or family member. The shower hostess could even distribute a list with the invitations.

But, reviewing the gifts against some sort of list during the shower strikes us as the tiniest bit greedy. And, it could too easily result in awkwardness. What if Mom doesn’t get the presents she wanted? What if the bingo card isn’t filled?

A similar game we saw on a number of websites is guessing the price of certain baby items. In tough economic times, it’s unlikely that every guest will bring something expensive. Don’t take the chance of embarrassing any of your guests.

Don’t get us wrong. Again, this is a case of knowing your guests. If you’re sure no one will take offense and you want to play this kind of game. Go for it. But, do give it some thought. After all your hard work in planning and giving a shower, you don’t want to leave a negative impression with some of your guests.

Finally, choose your moments and don’t force it. If it’s clear your guests aren’t enjoying the games, just let the games go. Pass some finger food and/or offer non-pregnant attendees a glass of wine or beer. Most of these games are designed to be icebreakers – to get people talking and having a good time. If they’re already having a good time, why interrupt? Keep the games for the moment when there is a lull in the conversation.

That’s our advice. Now, for some fun. Here is a list of some of the best websites we found that describe shower games. Yes, some of them are repetitive, but if you’re new to planning a shower, they may be helpful. Many of them also offer terrific advice for new and expectant mothers.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/pippa/fun-baby-shower-games#.brp0WL8A4w
http://www.today.com/parents/baby-shower-game-ideas-2D80218672
http://www.fitpregnancy.com/baby/genuinely-fun-baby-shower-games/slide/2
http://www.momtastic.com/life/541581-baby-shower-games/?slideshow=1363#/slide/15
http://www.beau-coup.com/baby_shower_games.htm
http://www.parents.com/baby/shower/games/fun-baby-shower-games/#page=1

Researchers Question “Educational” Electronic Toys

Electronic Toys Discourage Language DevelopmentAn new study reported today published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests what most of us intuitively know: electronic toys contribute far less to the quantity and quality of language development in children, especially very young children, than playing with books or more traditional toys, wooden puzzles, blocks and the like.

Researchers from Northern Arizona University monitored the playtime interaction of parents and children aged 10 to 16 months. Participants were provided three sets of toys: electronic toys, traditional toys and five board books with farm animal, shape or color themes.

They observed a measurable decrease in the quantity and quality of language input when the children played with electronic toys – a baby laptop, a talking farm and a baby cell phone.

Specific observations included:

  • Fewer adult words
  • Fewer conversational turns with verbal back and forth
  • Few parental responses
  • Less production of content-specific words – meaning parents aren’t naming objects so the toddler learns new words.

“These results provide a basis for discouraging the purchase of electronic toys that are promoted as educational and are often quite expensive,” the authors conclude. “These results add to the large body of evidence supporting the potential benefits of book reading with very young children.”

The authors also caution against believing the “educational” claims of manufacturers of electronic toys.

These conclusions track the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics which discourages media use by children younger than two years of age and emphasizes the importance of book reading and other types of parent-child play time.

Source: Sosa A, et al. Association of the Type of Toy Used During Play with the Quantity and Quality of Parent-Infant Communication. JAMA Pediatrics. 2015.

We Couldn’t Resist Mom and Santa

We couldn’t resist developing a image of Mommy Kissing Santa – the wonderful 1952 song by Jimmy Boyd. We also couldn’t resist adding our silicone teething necklace to the image of Mom.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

merrychristmas_edited-1

Reconsider Amber Teething Necklaces

Amber Teething NecklacesIf you’re interested in amber teething necklaces, you may have seen an recent article in a babycenter blog  discussing the author’s experience with amber teething necklaces.

We at Unicorn Station have studied the safety and efficacy of amber teething necklaces and concluded that at best they’re a placebo and at worst they’re dangerous. You can read or watch the results of our work here or here.

To her credit, the Mom who wrote that blog admits that when she used the amber necklace for her first child, she couldn’t draw any firm conclusions about how well it did in providing teething relief. It probably did soothe the infant…anything that distracts baby, that baby can play with or chew will probably soothe. However, based on our comprehensive research, the amber probably had little to do with providing relief — the same relief could be obtained by another teething necklace.

The blogger Mom also describes using the necklace for her second child and drawing similar conclusions. That is, she can’t be sure it worked, but thinks it did. We’d again suggest that anything soft the child can chew on and/or play with probably provided some relief.

Then, somewhat shockingly, she admits that despite the warning by the American Academy of Pediatricians that amber necklaces are a choking and strangulation hazard, she thinks of them as “my magic feather.”

Pardon us, but this assertion by an obviously well-meaning person, is shocking. And frankly, her behavior is manifestly reckless. She knows the hazards, but continues the usage.

The American Academy of Pediatricians is unequivocal on the subject.

“When parents see their baby suffering, they just want a solution. Amber teething necklaces have become an increasing popular alternative treatment to ease teething pain. But, are they effective and safe? The answer is no.”

The blogger also asserts that the AAP says moms use amber necklaces as bracelets or anklets. It seems to us that the same objections to the amber necklaces apply to bracelets and anklets. In fact, we’d consider that they are even more dangerous as baby can reach and pull at them far more easily.

We considered offering an amber teething necklace as part of our intention to offer fabulous products for families. However, one of our partners, a gemologist, did extensive research on the necklaces and recommended against it. Her conclusions are here. And, finally, we’ve made no secret of the fact that we do offer a safe and efficacious teether.

Please think carefully before you purchase an amber teething necklace. You may be getting both more and less than what you paid for.