Obesity in children = child abuse?

Recently, two Harvard researchers made an advocacy claim that morbidly obese children should be taken away from their parents and placed into foster care.  In the Journal of the Medical Association, Murtagh and Ludwig suggest that the state should interfere on behalf of these children.  For example, they used the case of a 3 year old, who weighed 90 pounds, and at 12 years old was at 400 pounds.  What they propose is that when there is a case of extreme obesity, the state should treat it as they would an underfed child.

After researching for my previous post on Obesity and how it affects the brains of kids, I am a bit torn on this issue.  The researchers claim that in the extreme cases they have observed, the parents were advised repeatedly by healthcare professionals, etc. and do not lack the ability to incorporate weight loss measures.  The parents just don’t care.  And I have to admit, along with smoking, I do think knowingly exposing your child to harmful or deleterious substances/food/things is a form of abuse.

However, as a scientist I have to put on my critical thinking hat.  First, the foster care system is already flooded with children (which breaks my heart).  Would it strain an already over-strained system?  Second, like smoking, while I abhor the lack of concern over the health effects, parents can smoke in front of their kids.  Third, it seems like a thin line.  Where do we draw the proverbial line in the sand?  A 90-pound toddler seems atrocious, but what about a 70-pound toddler?

And before anyone gets on the “keep the government out of my business” rant, let us remind ourselves that our society can in no way benefit from NOT doing anything about this issue.  These children will grow up with so many propensities towards bad eating habits and all of the (extensively) researched negative health effects that accompany obesity.  I doubt most of these kids will grow into productive members of society.  These parents are, in a sense, assisting in the exact opposite. 

My final point is that I think the parents that let their kids so morbidly obese are probably dealing with their own issues.  Maybe focusing on the weight loss and importance of good nutrition and exercise cannot be internalized due to other inner issues (previous abuse, etc.).  Perhaps counseling would work?  I don’t know.  I think this is a really complicated problem with many layers.  And I am still torn between wanting to protect the child (thus, removing the child) and realizing that this may oversimplify (and not really solve) greater issues. 

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/306/2/206.extract

The Scientist vs. The Mommy

There I was, getting ready for Violet’s 6-month wellness check.  All of the sudden I hear what no mother wants to hear…the genuine cry of your child in pain.  I run to the kitchen and see Collin holding Conner (Daddy always makes boo-boos better!).  Collin explains that Conner was playfully running away from him, fell and hit his head on the bottom of our cabinet.  The welt is getting worse by the second.  I grab my phone and call his pediatric nurse, who proceeds to inform me that we need to take him immediately to the children’s hospital for a CT scan…huh?  I hang up and explain what she said to my doubtful hubby who reminds me that we have all experienced these types of “bumps on the head”.  So I call back.  And they repeat what we need to do.  Sigh.  Luckily, the ER doctor didn’t think he needed to have a CT scan. 

What makes this so ironic is that I had just listened to a podcast and read a report about the increasing number of CT scans given to kids.  I remember thinking at the time that the radiation exposure was quite high, and in most cases the head injury didn’t warrant the risk.  The Scientist in me thought his was just another example of how we overuse medical procedures, which in turn raises the cost for us all.  However, on our way to the hospital The Mommy was ruling the day and I kept thinking, SIGN US UP!   No mother ever, ever, ever wants to think they didn’t do A, B or C which could have detected whatever. 

Now that I can look back from a less emotional point of view, The Scientist wins and I am glad that the doctor didn’t advise one.  In our specific case, Conner never lost consciousness, didn’t vomit, etc.  There were no outward indications that he had been seriously injured.

But why have the number of CT scans increased? 

According to an article in Medical News Today, “it’s widely available, it’s fast and there are a lot of great reasons to do it, but it does carry a higher radiation dose.”  The article focuses on a recent article in the journal Radiology (June, 2011). The research was headed by lead author,  lead author, David B. Larson, M.D., M.B.A., director of quality improvement in the Department of Radiology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.

In a nutshell, doctors are suggesting CT scans for many more ailments since the technology has improved, is faster, more reliable, etc.  However, CT scans use ionizing radiation (remember cell phones use non-ionizing radiation).  “Exposure to radiation causes damage to living tissue, and can result in mutation, radiation sickness, cancer, and death” (wikipedia.org).  In addition, according to Dr. Larson, most of the radiologists performing the CT scans on children were not trained specifically in pediatric radiology, which requires different considerations like size of pediatric patient, sedation techniques, and CT scan parameters. 

So, all in all, I am glad Conner didn’t get the CT scan because it was gratuitous.  However, I completely understand that any mother would want the most extensive test to rule out any possible injury.  I think the solution here is for better communication among pediatricians, parents and other medical professionals. 

Links:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/221285.php

http://pediacast.org/show/files/pediacast-159.php

Using brain waves as an early indicator of Autism.

For most parents, there seems to be a defining moment when they realize their child acts “different”.  Although there is still much to be learned, it seems like every day there is greater advancement in the research and treatment of Autism.  Usually, signs of Autism don’t appear until well into the toddler years, around age 3. However, new research may help identify brain activity that indicates the child may go on to develop Autism.  In fact, the research is testing whether they can identify autism, based on brain activity, as early as 6 months of age. 

Charles Nelson, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, and William Bosl, a research scientist at Children’s Hospital Boston and an instructor at Harvard Medical School are using electroencephalography (EEG), which simply works by recording electrical activity from the brain, to monitor brain activity of infants. Specifically, they are looking for an “Autism marker”, and believe they have found one,  a very high frequency brain waves known as gamma oscillations.  Although a bit controversial, gamma waves are implicated in the consciousness, attentive focus, and (more interestingly—at least to me) Tibetan monks during meditation.  Using 79 children, since they were 6 months old, Nelson has found that “…starting as young as 6 months, maybe even younger, infants who have a high risk for developing autism show dramatic reductions in gamma activity”. 

In addition, Sophie Molholm of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York , is investigating how sensory integration is different in Autistic children.  Most people can integrate multiple sensory modalities.  For example, you are at a noisy restaurant, yet you can still make out what your friend is saying to you because you can use visual cues to fill in where your hearing is restricted. According to Molholm, children with Autism cannot do this well.  To show this, she conducted an experiment where Autistic and typical children listened to words that were hard to distinguish because of a background of white noise.  In some cases, a video of someone saying the word was played, in other cases, not. What she found was that  “…children with autism don’t benefit nearly as much from the visual signal as typically developing children”.  The EEG data also found that these children have trouble integrating the visual and audio stimuli, therefore, they cannot distinguish the words when there is white noise in the background, even with the aid of a visual cue (someone saying the word).

There is promising news in her study.  When she looks at teenagers, they seem to get better at integrating multiple sensory modalities.  According to Molhom, “”The beauty of that finding is that it suggests that the neural circuitry is intact,” she says. “It’s just not coming on line during the earlier childhood years”.

This article is featured on NPR, and here is the link.  http://www.npr.org/2011/06/02/136882002/looking-for-early-signs-of-autism-in-brain-waves?ft=1&f=1007

Oh teething gel, you dangerous, dangerous thing…

Conner at 7 months old, using my nose as a teething ring...

I have to admit, Conner was a real trooper when it came to teething.  We mainly gave some Tylenol and he went about his teething business.  So, I never used a teething gel to get him through what I assume to be a painful situation.

Imagine my surprise when I read an article that the FDA is advising against the use of teething gels.  Wha? And what the heck can teething gels possibly have to do with the brain?  Glad you asked!

According to the FDA, the main ingredient in teething gels (pretty much any over-the-counter brand) is benzocaine. The problem is that there is a portion of the population that can develop methemoglobinemia after benzocaine exposure.  Methemoglobinemia can be inherited, but is mainly caused by things in our environment like drugs (benzocaine) and chemicals (nitrates in deli meats), etc. Simply defined, methemoglobinemia is the inability for hemoglobin to carry the oxygenated blood to tissue.  And now enter the effects on the brain.  If tissue is deprived for oxygen long enough, it is deprived of essential nutrients carried in the blood. The end result is that the tissue cannot survive. Along with seizure and fatality, stroke is also a possibility. If the brain is deprived of oxygen and nutrients long enough, you will have permanent neurological damage, hence stroke.

Although I could not find an actual statistic, all of the reports said methemoglobinemia is RARE.

But even more surprising is that there is a growing number if pediatricians that don’t think teething actually hurts.  They think that (like the vaccine/autism debate), anecdotal situations and old wives tales have led to the notion that it must be painful.  Maybe the fever, rash, drool, fussiness happened around the same time, but were not related to the actual teething? Babies are, well, fussy. And Conner and Violet seem to be on a mission to saturate the world with their drool independent of teething.

So my final thoughts are that if you still want to give teething gel with benzocaine I am sure your kid will be fine.  However, there are probably many other strategies used by parents that are free of benzocaines and are probably FREE (ice, wash cloth put in the freezer, your finger…).

 Here is a link to the FDA report.

http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm250024.htm

 

 

The Great Cell-Phones-Cause-Brain-Tumors Debate

There I am, watching the Today Show (which I rarely watch) and all of the sudden there is an episode about why you shouldn’t let little Johnny play with your cell phone because cell phones have been linked to…GASP…brain tumors.  Conner and Violet really don’t play with my cell phone, but we have occasionally (out of desperation, usually at a restaurant) played an Elmo video from YouTube.  But I understand games are quite popular on cell phones (like Angry Bird).  So of course this got the scientist in me questioning.  Can cell phones really cause brain tumors?

After reading research articles and even some blogs on the topic, I have to admit I am on the fence.  There are many animal studies and some show a link, some don’t.  In humans, the same is true.  There are many, many articles, but to keep it simple I will focus on a famous study conducted by the Interphone Study Group (2010).  The researchers conducted interviews of adults with brain tumors and compared them (and their cell phone usage) to matched controls.  There conclusions are that there is “no increased risk of brain tumors with cell phone use”.  However, they do caution that “we don’t know the possible effects of long-term exposure and this warrants further investigation”. 

In addition, the American Cancer Society, FCC, FDA, CDC, etc. all state that there is no scientific data supporting a link between cell phone use and brain tumors/cancer.  Interestingly, the National Toxicology Program (currently conducting research on this topic) and the National Cancer Institute both state that while there is no conclusive link, further research is needed to really elucidate any possible health effects from cell phone use.

Here is a basic summary of how cell phones work, and why there is concern.  Cell phones use radiofrequency (RF) magnetic fields, a form of non-ionizing radiation.  The radiation isn’t as strong as, say, a microwave, but isn’t as weak as FM radio.  This website sums it up really well http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/cellular-phones.  So the fear is that by placing the cell phone directly to your head, the RF radiation comes in direct contact with the tissue…but then again you have this nice, thick skull, meniges, and cerebral spinal fluid protecting said tissue so how much is actually able to penetrate?

Anywho, non-ionizing means that it should not have the capability of doing any direct damage to the DNA of the cells, thus, won’t cause cancer.  While this may in theory be true, and many of the human and animal studies don’t show a link between cell phone use and brain cancer/tumors, there are some limitations of these studies that warrant further investigation.

1) We have only been able to look at short-term exposure.  What about after 40 years of cell phone use?

2) No studies of cell phone use in children has really been conducted.

3) We use our cell phones way more now than 5 or 10 years ago. 

For me, I mainly use my cell for its music player and CardioTrack when I run. But it is in my hand, not next to my head.  But, the overly  analytical, concerned, and scientific side of me starts questioning things.  Is it far enough from my Conner and Violet’s head, since they are in the stroller and I am pushing the stroller, while jogging, with phone in hand?  Do cell phone apps, like the music player, CardioTrack, games, etc. also use RF energy, or just when you make phone calls?

I guess my overall conclusion is that limited cell phone use probably doesn’t emit enough radiation to damage cells.  And playing games, apps, music isn’t cause for concern either because you aren’t holding it directly to your noggin.  But, then again…

Here are the articles I mainly used if you would like to read more about it.  I would love to know what you think on this as well.  Do you let your kids use/play with your cell phone?  Are you worried?

Works Cited:

http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/ije/press_releases/freepdf/dyq079.pdf  (Interphone Study Group)

http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/cellular-phones

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-cell-phones-can-cause-brain-cancer

Potting Training Extravaganza

Let the adventure begin!  We have successfully removed the pacifier from Conner’s life, which was way easier than we thought!.  Now, I think we are ready for the potty training challenge.  I have heard that boys take longer than girls. I am sure it won’t be easy, but hey, maybe he will surpise us!  So, any potty training advice?   I did look into “potty training and cognitive development” and will post about that soon.

>She’s a eatin’ solids!

>

Violet had her 4-month check-up a couple of weeks ago.  Since Collin wanted to be present for her first venture into solid food, we waited until Mother’s Day to officially introduce her to rice cereal.  The word that sums up her first reaction was…Meh.  She seems to really like the addition of mashed banana!  When Conner was introduced to solids, Collin and I would take turns on what fruit or veggie would be next.  So, her next adventure will be peas (and if she hates it she can blame Daddy).

Here are a few questions for the Mommy’s out there (and Daddy’s):
1)  Do you buy your baby food or make it yourself?
2)  For homemade rice cereal, how to you include the iron that is found in the store bought iron-fortified cereals?
3)  Any funny stories about feeding your wee little ones?  Who doesn’t love a messy baby face, eh?!

>Effects of obesity on children’s brain function

>

After watching 2 episodes of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I have to say it is appalling how our kids eat in public schools.  Nothing but over-processed, over-sugared, calorie loaded crap.  I can’t accept that parents don’t care, or refuse to believe that kids need proper, healthy nutrition…you know, fruits, vegetables, whole grains…Therefore, I can only assume (and hope) that parents just don’t know that their kids are fed crap and when they find out, boy o’ boy, they are going to do something about it!

We have all heard the alarming statistics of obesity rates in this country, and the subsequent deleterious health risks.  And there are harmful effects of obesity on the brain.  Studies have also shown that obese children are more likely to have lower IQ’s (Olsson and Hutling, 2010), lower cognitive function and greater behavioral problems (Miller et al., 2006), greater risk for developing pseudomotor cerebri (buildup of pressure by fluid around the brain, aka idiopathic intracranial hypertension) and last but not least, brain lesions similar to what is observed in Alzheimer’s patients (Miller et al., 2006). In 2010, a study was published in Diabetologia stating that obese adolescents with type 2 diabetes had impaired performance on learning and memory tasks compared to just obese cohorts.  MRI scans also showed reduced white matter (tissue where messages pass from one area of the brain to another). …have I scared you enough?!  Here is a good article detailing how obesity effects a child’s body:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/health/childhoodobesity/obesityeffects.html

Hope is on the horizon…

A researcher (Dr. Echon) with the San Antonio-based Social & Health Research Center was awarded a huge grant (a la $2 million) to study the caloric intake of 5 elementary schools.  The schools were chosen based on the high rates of obesity and diabetes, so lower-income schools.  It is estimated that 33% of children living in Bexas County (San Antonio/surrounding areas) are obese.  Yikes!

Dr. Echon said the aim is to inform the parents of these children how many calories their darling buds of joy are consuming.  So, in a nutshell, here is how it works.  Kids are assigned a bar code for their tray. Once they have ordered all of their food, a camera at the cashier station will snap a picture of said food.  Once the child hands in the tray, another camera snaps a photo of the remaining food.  A computer program then analyzes the remaining food for calorie and nutrient consumption. Parents will then receive a copy of the data.  The data will also be used to analyze what food kids are choosing to eat. No photo will be of any child, just the food.

With all of the information about how obesity negatively effects kids, from psychological to physical to actually altering brain plasticity, programs like this really need parental support.  In addition to signing the permission slip to let these programs occur, parents need to improve the quality of food for their children.  I live in the suburbs, therefore I am a bit jaded because all I see when I go to the grocery store are, lets just say, very rotund individuals.  Grocery carts filled with processed foods, sodas, cookies, high-sugar cereals…but very little fruit, veggie, etc.  If you are an adult and you want to be the size of a small aircraft carrier, more power to you (not really, but you are an adult).  But, for your kids sake, for the sake of their potential future investment into society, care enough to make sure these kids are getting proper nutrition.  They deserve the right to learn the best they can and not be hindered by a poor diet that leads to obesity and the deleterious physical and mental consequences.

Now go eat an apple!

Works cited:

http://diabetes.webmd.com/news/20100803/brain-abnormalities-in-obese-kids-with-diabetes

Miller J, Kranzler J, Liu Y, Schmalfuss I, Theriaque DW, Shuster JJ, Hatfield A, Mueller OT, Goldstone AP, Sahoo T, Beaudet AL, Driscoll DJ. Neurocognitive findings in Prader-Willi syndrome and early-onset morbid obesity. J Pediatr. 2006 Aug;149(2):192-8.
Stevenson SB. Pseudotumor cerebri: yet another reason to fight obesity. J Pediatr Health Care. 2008 Jan-Feb;22(1):40-3.
Olsson GM, Hulting AL. Intellectual profile and level of IQ among a clinical group of obese children and adolescents. Eat Weight Disord. 2010 Mar-Jun;15(1-2):e68-73.

>Phthalates, Parabens and Baby Lotion…Oh My!

>Since Conner was born, I have gradually been switching to more natural, homemade cleaners for my house and laundry.  I never thought I would make my own all purpose cleaner, fabric softner, etc. but, alas, I do.  The impetus was from two issues that kept bugging me.  First, have you looked at the back of most of  your cleaning products?  There are some pretty scary chemicals in there.  It seems like everyday more and more research comes out revealing how these chemicals aren’t as benign as we once thought.  They are getting into our water systems and our environment.  The same can be said for a lot of cosmetic products like lotion, face soap, make-up, and (gasp!) baby products!  So, I am going to focus on the baby products and what the research says about some of the common ingredients found in most baby care products.

So, let me start by saying that the scientist in me trusts that enough research has been on these different chemicals and additives to say that they are relatively safe.  I mean, when I was a baby, baby powder and lotion, baby bath products, wipes, and disposable diapers were used with no thought to whether they were “chlorine free”, paraben free, SLS free…But are they as safe as we consumers assume?  Are these preservatives and additives, used as anti-microbials and to lengthen shelf life, actually not good for our babies and kids?

Here is what I found using a website that is an excellent database for scientific articles and research (pubmed). I have provided a link to it at the end of this posting in case you want to check out any research.

Phthalates are mainly used in plastics to increase flexibility and resilience. Parabens are chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics and medicines. The first thing I noticed when I searched “phthalates and paraben exposure” was 11 articles.  I am sure if I would have been more specific I would have found a plethora of articles.  I decided to focus on 2 different review papers.  For the non-scientist folks, a review paper simply means the author (s) have compiled the latest and most comprehensive research/studies to write an overall assessment of the actual literature.  In other words…they didn’t actually conduct any, some, or all of the studies.  Instead, they are providing a nice overview of the research findings. The first review is by Crinnon, 2010, titled “Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens“.  The second review is by Witorsch and Thomas, 2010, titled “Personal care products and endocrine disruption: A critical review of the literature“.

So here goes…

The review by Crinnon finds concludes that there is concern over the use of phthalates and parabens.  Here is a breakdown of his review:


Phthalates:
18 billion pounds are produced every year and are found in detergent, shampoo (including BABY), cosmetics, lotion (including BABY), plastic bags, household furniture, food packaging, cleaning supplies, CHILDREN’S TOYS (the list goes on).

1) Animal studies
          -prenatal exposure to males results in testicular abnormalities
2) Human studies
          -in utero exposure has been found to increase mood disorders, inattention and aggression in males
           and females
          -exposure in young females linked to earlier onset of sexual development and breast development
          -exposure in young males linked to testicular dysfunction and formation, infertility
          -exposure in adults linked to obesity, asthma, allergies, breast cancer (controversial), tumors, etc.
Parabens:

They can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, topical/parenteral pharmaceuticals, spray tanning solution, makeup, and toothpaste. They are also used as food additives. (Wikipedia). Parabens mimic estrogen activity and can interfere with mitochondrial function.

1) Animal studies
          -weak estrogen activity
          -2 studies by Burdock Group Consultants found parabens to be absolutely non-toxic (more on this
            below).
2)Human studies
          – (possibly) linked to breast cancer in females
          -linked to infertility in males

Here is what Witorsch and Thomas say in their review:
“In conclusion, although select constituents exhibit interactions with the endocrine system in the laboratory, the evidence linking personal care products to endocrine disruptive effects in humans is for the most part lacking”.

Phthalates:
1) Animal studies
          -in utero exposure causes demasculinizing characteristics in male rats, similar to testicular dysgenesis
          syndrome in humans
          – however, this effect was not found in mice or primates
      
Parabens
1) Animal studies
         -studies have not linked parabens and endocrine disruption
2) Human studies
         -studies have not linked parabens and endocrine disruption

So here are my thoughts:
The review by Crinnon lists research articles to back up his conclusions.  However, I did notice he published his review in the journal Alternative Medicine Review, whose main purpose is “for sharing information on the practical use of alternative and complementary therapies”.  Therefore, I think his conclusions might be a bit biased.

The review by Witorsch and Thomas was very science based, and I didn’t go into great detail of every finding because it was very lengthy.  What struck me about their review was that most of the studies in humans sang the same tune…”exposure to phthalates is within the regulatory amounts”.  So it is not that we aren’t actually getting exposed, but that our exposure falls within “safe limits”.  Most of the animal and human studies concluded the same thing…yes, we are exposed to parabens and phthalates, but the amount needed to actually cause deleterious effects to humans is way higher than any amount we are actually exposed to.

Um, yeah, not so much.

Here is my main problem with Witorsch and Thomas’ very exhaustive review of the scientific literature.  Saying something is “within safe exposure limits” or that we would have to consume astronomical amounts to see effects is misleading.  Phthalates and parabens are in EVERYTHING!  We are not talking about just baby shampoo, or medicine, or lotion.  It is everything plastic.  Look around your house right now…plastic, plastic, plastic.  Plus, I understand the argument that with shampoo, we aren’t absorbing much because it gets washed off.  Um, ok, well how about the fact that all of those chemical are going down the drain, and into the water supply?  You know, dental fillings used to contain mercury.  I guess the idea was that it was “within the safe exposure limit” of mercury.  Now they are removing those fillings because, guess what, mercury in any amount is bad.

Also, if you do a wikipedia search, you find that the evidence that parabens are non-toxic comes from a consulting group.  I don’t know anything about them, and I am sure they are great scientists.  But from what I gathered from their website, industries go to them and they “offer customized solutions for your FDA compliance needs”…just sounds iffy to me…However, they do mention that phthalates are being removed from products because of health concerns.

Now I don’t want to come across high-handed here.  I am a practical gal.  I realize that we have regulatory agencies that test the effectiveness and safety of all things to ensure they are ok to use.  But there are also countless examples when we find out that these chemicals/products aren’t actually good for us.

So I guess my question is…why use these products?  Why take the chance?  I would love to hear from some moms out there that disagree with me.  Maybe I am viewing this too singularly?

I would like to provide a link to a recent blog I was fortunate enough to come across.  Not only is this blog a great tool for homemade, eco-friendly, and frugal living, the author seems so warm and genuine (and pretty!). Here is her article on the very topic of what we put on our bodies and our babies.  The list of ingredients on Johnson’s Baby lotion is eye-opening.
http://homemademothering.com/2010/05/my-favorite-skin-care-ingredient.html

Well…what do you think?  Are we making too much of this?  Have they found these chemicals/ingredients to be safe?  Or are we sacrificing our health for the sake of a longer shelf life?

Works Cited:
PubMed  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/guide/

Crinnion WJ. Toxic effects of the easily avoidable phthalates and parabens.Altern Med Rev. 2010 Sep;15(3):190-6. Review
Witorsch RJ, Thomas JA.Personal care products and endocrine disruption: A critical review of the literature. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2010 Nov;40 Suppl 3:1-30. Review.







>Baby Yoga!

>It has been way too long since my last post.  Conner is now 26 months old, and we have recently added a new addition to our family, Violet, who is 3 months old.  Life is busy but oh so good!

I have practiced yoga for about 5 years now.  I am sure everyone knows the benefits, but for me it goes a bit deeper.  It is almost like my body needs it!  I am a much more balanced and centered wife, Mommy and person when I run and do yoga. 

When I was pregnant with Violet, I practiced prenatal yoga.  I can’t say enough about the benefits…increased flexibility, relief from back pain and tightness in the shoulders, etc.  Anywho, after my daughter was born I got right back into it.  I happened to google “baby yoga” after seeing a news segment a while back about baby yoga.  I purchased “Itsy Bitsy Yoga: Poses to Help Your Baby Sleep Longer, Digest Better, and Grow Stronger” by Helen Garabedian.  I love, really love, this book.  It is so easy to read and the pictures are so easy to follow.  The poses are really common sense, and nothing that is at all challenging.  Mainly it uses a Hatha approach of stretching and increasing flexibility. 

So this got me thinking…many studies have shown the positive physical and cognitive effects of yoga for adults. Can baby yoga provide the same effects?

This is a direct quote from Itsy Bitsy Yoga:
              “…Itsy Bitsy Yoga can promote better sleep, improved digestion, ease gas pain and colic, stimulate 
               neuromuscular development, and boost the immune system”.

Now my only real complaint about this book is the lack of scientific references for these claims.  So off I went in search of some.

Sadly, I really didn’t find any scientific articles per se.  But then again, how would one measure this stuff?

What I did find were numerous articles from accredited yoga instructors.  Basically they all say the same thing.  Based on their own experience teaching and practicing baby yoga, it will improve respiration, digestion, circulation and increase immune function.  In addition, it promotes healthy brain development, motor coordination, and decreases anxiety and stress.  In other words, it relaxes the baby:)

I think the most important benefit of baby yoga is the bonding.  The baby gets so much attention from the parent. 

So, although there isn’t much in the way of actual scientific research, I would say that it is not a far stretch to assume that the most of the claims made by baby yoga advocates are pretty true.  For adults, yoga most certainly improves flexibility, muscle and motor coordination, decreases anxiety and stress, and a whole host of other improvements.  So why not be as beneficial for babies/toddlers/kids?  I have practiced baby yoga with Violet for about 2 months now.  What I can say is how happy she is when we practice.  I spend about 10 minutes with her and at that moment nothing else exists.  I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.  I do think she benefits from the poses, stretching, etc.  Mainly, I think she benefits from the undivided attention I give her during this time.  I am not trying to multi-task, or check my e-mail, or make dinner.  I am bonding with my baby.  We are relaxing and cooing and it is the best feeling in the world!  Namaste:)

Oh-and I have every intention of purchasing the Itsy Bitsy Yoga for Toddlers and Preschoolers for Conner!

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