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Baby Blurbs: The Latest Infant News and Research in Tiny Bundles

Early autism signs, reproductive knowledge gaps, benefits of baby talk, fussy baby hotline

Published on: March 31, 2014

Baby with intense eyesLooking autism in the eyes

A recent study may shed some light on diagnosing autism at an early age. “When and how long a baby looks at other people’s eyes offers the earliest behavioral sign to date of whether a child is likely to develop autism,” reports Pam Belluck in The New York Times. Published online in the journal Nature last November, the research cited by Belluck shows that babies who developed autism began spending less time looking at people’s eyes between the ages of 2 and 6 months, while infants who didn’t develop autism looked more and more often at people’s eyes.

Now we know what we don’t know

woman scratching head doesn't know

Many females between the ages of 18 and 40 don’t have knowledge of vital reproductive health information, reports a study published in Fertility & Sterility in January. The results of the study, which was completed by Yale School of Medicine researchers, were culled from an online survey of 1,000 women representing every ethnic group and geographic region in the 2010 U.S. Census.

According to a YaleNews press release:

•    50 percent of respondents had not discussed reproductive health with a medical provider.
•    50 percent didn’t know multivitamins with folic acid are recommended to reproductive-age women to help prevent birth defects.
•    More than 25 percent didn’t know about the harmful implications of sexually transmitted infections, obesity, smoking or irregular menses on fertility.
•    One-fifth had no knowledge of the adverse effects on reproductive success caused by aging.

Coochie coochie coo! Baby is getting smarter!

Mama talking with laughing baby

Your singsong voice might drive your partner nuts now and then, but turns out it helps your baby’s language development. Recent research from University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) and the University of Connecticut shows “that the prevalence of baby talk in one-on-one conversations with children is linked to better language development, both concurrent and future,” says I-LABS co-director Patricia Kuhl, Ph.D., who co-wrote the study, in a news release.

Baby talk, or “parentese,” describes the singsong voice we tend to use with infants.

“You can imagine that as a caregiver says, ‘What do you have there? Is that a ball? It’s red! And shiny!’ she might really elongate the word there and make her voice reach a high pitch. She is probably also using facial expressions, like wide eyes, raised eyebrows and a smile, to further exaggerate the speech,” says Sarah Roseberry Lytle, Ph.D., director of translation, outreach and education at I-LABS. “Research has shown that parentese is naturally engaging to infants. So by using parentese, people are already engaging infants in an interaction.”

A reason to dry your tears

mom with fussy babyAre you crying for mercy because of a fussy baby? Call the Fussy Baby Warmline at 206-906-9622. Caregivers can leave a message anytime, and an infant specialist will call back within 24 hours during the week and 48 hours over the weekend.

Run by Cooper House since September 2013, this free service is part of the Fussy Baby Network of Seattle/King County. “Sometimes we can provide the support that is needed over the phone, but often we can be most effective at a home visit,” says Lisa Mennet, Ph.D., Cooper House’s clinical director. Home visits are part of the Fussy Baby Parent/Infant Program, which is free for Medicaid-eligible families and ranges from $5 to $75 per visit for all other families.

“Focusing on the parents’ most urgent concerns, we provide emotional support and encouragement as well as concrete suggestions,” Mennet says. “Caring for a fussy baby can be isolating and discouraging. We understand what parents are going through, and [we] want to help them reconnect to their own parenting abilities and find ways to enjoy their infant again.”

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