Friday, April 27, 2012

Get Ready, Next Week is Screen-Free Week! April 30-May 6

What is screen-free week?*
This is one week each year where many families commit to turning off all electronic entertainment for an entire week. That means televisions, computers, videos, and any other electronic devises your child may use. This also includes handheld devises and all of those new apps geared toward kids! This might seem very challenging to many of you (including myself) because we definitely live in a world full of technology. Screen-free week is only 7 days long; you can do it, and you might discover something wonderful in the process.

* Screen-Free week is sponsored by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and is endorsed by hospitals, the Head Start program, the National WIC Association, and local health departments among other groups.
Why screen-free?
Excessive screen time has been linked to:

·        Childhood obesity
·        Poor school performance
·        Attention problems
·        Displacement of other important activities, such as physical activity and creative play
The stats and recommendations
·        Children in America age 2-6 spend an average of 4 hours watching TV per day.
·        According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 29% of children in America under the age of 2 have TVs in their rooms.
·        Preschoolers spend on average 32 hours of screen-time per week.
·        The current AAP recommendation is for children under age 2 to watch NO TV.
·        For older children, the AAP recommends 1-2 hours of supervised TV time per day, and that the programs are educational and non-violent.
·        For a recent post about new recommendations for media use and babies, click here: Baby Behavior in the News: AAP Releases ANew Policy Statement on Media Use and Babies

Alternatives to screen-time
Explore other ways to play and connect with your baby and other children. Here are a few of our past posts that can help you do exactly that.

1. Baby Talk and the Adult Brain Learn about how talking to your baby actually changes the language centers of your brain, especially for mothers.
2. Entertaining Your Baby WithoutBreaking the Bank This post provides some alternative, cost-friendly activities for you and your baby.
3. For Babies, A Little Playtime is aGreat Workout! Read about the importance of “exercise” for babies every day!

4. Babies’ Emotional Development: SocialReferencing (2 part series) Babies learn by looking at and interacting with YOU.
5. Too Much Fun: Preventing Overstimulation in Infants and Toddlers Don’t forget to give your baby breaks from all of this fun play time!

6. Choosing the Right Gift for Baby Learn about toys specific for your baby’s personality.

7. Barriers to Building Relationships with Babies: Marketing and the Perfect Parent Learn about “The Case Against Baby Einstein” (and other videos targeted to infants).

Ideas for the Long Term (Adapted from “What parents can do to guide and reduce screen-time” by The Early Years Institute)

·        Limit hours of TV per day or week
·        Limit screen-time to specific times or days of the week
·        Balance screen-time with playtime
·        Turn off TV during meals
·        Watch appropriate shows together; ask questions about what is happening in the show; talk about the characters’ feelings and decisions.
·        For older kids, talk about the difference between commercials and the regular show. Most kids don’t know the difference.
Technology can be a wonderful thing. Screen-free week is all about discovering alternatives to technology and finding a balance between play time and screen-time, not cutting out all technology for the rest of your life. We know that screen-free time is impossible to follow during the work day, since many of us work on computers. Instead, promote scree-free time at home with your family after work hours and on the weekend. Participate in screen-free week with other friends or family you know; it might make it a little easier! Good luck and know that we are taking the pledge with our own children for no screen-time this next week as well! Tell us your stories of how it goes!

References and Resources
Screen Time FactSheet and Parent Tips (The Early Years Institute)

Official Sitefor Screen-Free Week 2012

AAPRecommendations for TV Viewing

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Even in the womb, an active baby is a healthy baby!

Even though fetal movements begin at about 7 to 8 weeks’ gestation, it isn’t until between 16 and 20 weeks into pregnancy that moms start feeling the baby twist, stretch, and kick (Hijazi & East 2009). Starting around 25 weeks, babies make movements to expand their lungs, practicing for life outside the womb.

There can be great variations among healthy babies as to how often and how hard they "kick". You may notice that your baby prefers a particular position or has a favorite time of the day to be most active. Generally, moms find their babies are most active after eating a meal, drinking something cold, or after physical activity. More pronounced body movements also are easy to notice when you change from a sitting to a lying position. When you shift and need to adjust a little bit, so does your baby.

The baby's movements will also change as he or she grows bigger and gets into position for birth. You will feel fewer big turns and twists, but more kicks and jabs as your pregnancy progresses and your baby has less room to move.

Sometimes it’s just calm…

Your baby will sleep many times in the course of a day. Around 28 weeks gestation, your baby has developed a regular wake and sleep cycle. Unfortunately, it may not be the same as yours. For instance, I find my baby to be very active late at night, between midnight and 2:00 am! You’ll notice, though, your baby’s periods of sleep last longer as your pregnancy goes on. Researchers have found that beginning at around 36 weeks’ gestation, babies normally pass through sleep cycles of deep sleep and light sleep. These cycles last about 70–90 minutes. During deep sleep your baby may not move at all, but during light sleep he may move a little bit or even suck his thumb or finger (Van den Bergh & Mulder 2012).

What the baby is telling you with his kicks is important!

Each baby is unique and will move in his own way. Your pregnancy check-up will help you keep an eye on your baby's well-being, but you are the one that "knows" your baby best before he is born. Though strongly recommended for high risk pregnancies, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) consider beneficial for every pregnant woman to count fetal movements beginning at 28 weeks. At this point, you should feel your baby move several times every day. Setting aside time every day when you know your baby is active to count kicks, rolls, and jabs may help identify potential problems and could help prevent stillbirth (Saastad et al. 2010).

Your doctor or midwife will explain to you how to count your baby’s kicks every day. Being attentive to your baby’s movements will help you notice any significant changes. Once you start feeling your baby kick every day, it is important that you notice when it kicks much less than usual. If you have any concern, call your doctor for advice.

You can practice feeling for kicks! 

It’s generally easier to feel the kicks when you are lying down than when you stand, walk or are busy. Some mothers have more trouble feeling their babies’ kicks than others. If the placenta is on the front side of the womb, or if you are overweight, you will feel the kicks less (Hijazi & East 2009). Start by finding a comfortable position during a time when your baby is usually most active. Some moms prefer sitting in a well-supported position with their arms holding their bellies. Other moms prefer lying on their left sides, which they find most comfortable and most effective for monitoring their babies. Lying on your left side also allows for the best circulation which could lead to a more active baby.

If you are pregnant, soon you will be spending a lot of time caring for your baby. We encourage you to devote a little time each day during your pregnancy to get to know your baby by his movements. Taking time to do your kick counts will allow you to rest and bond with your baby!

We’d love to hear about your own experience feeling your baby kick! Send us your comments!


Hijazi ZR, East CE. Factors Affecting Maternal Perception of Fetal Movement. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 2009; 64(7): 489-497.

Van den Bergh BR, Mulder EJ. Fetal sleep organization: A biological precursor of self-regulation in childhood and adolescence? Biol Psychol. 2012; 89(3): 584–590.

Saastad E, Holm Tveit JV, Flenady V, Stray-Pedersen B, Frett RC, Bordahl PE, Froen JF. Implementation of uniform information on fetal movement in a Norwegian population reduced delayed reporting of decreased fetal movement and stillbirths in primiparous women - A clinical quality improvement. BMC Res Notes. 2010; 3(2).

Friday, April 20, 2012

Baby Behavior in the news: “A Mother’s Coffee Drinking Won't Lead to Sleepless Baby”

Findings from a new study examining the association between caffeine consumption during pregnancy and postpartum and night waking in infants have been in the news recently. One headline touted: “Coffee Drinking in Pregnancy Won't Lead to Sleepless Baby: Study” with a sub heading that stated: “It also found no increase in wakefulness among breast-fed babies whose mothers consumed caffeine.”

Although sleep disruption in adults has been linked to caffeine intake, this study found no significant effect of mothers’ caffeine intake (either prenatally or postpartum) of 300mg per day (about 6- 6oz cups of coffee) on infant night waking. (Santos 2012)

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you know that babies may wake for many reasons during the night, especially in the first 3 months postpartum. In previous posts, we have listed caffeine as a reason for night waking in infants. Let’s take a look at the specifics of this study. Have these researchers determined that the caffeine intake of breastfeeding mothers does not affect night waking in their infants?

The Study: Caffeine Intake of Postpartum Women

As part of this study, researchers analyzed maternal caffeine consumption and the sleep patterns of 885 mother-infant pairs during their first 3 months of life. The average caffeine intake of the mothers at 3 months postpartum was 144 mg per day (about 18 ounces of coffee). The amount of caffeine intake was collected via maternal report, but mothers were asked to measure caffeine intake using a very detailed method. Heavy caffeine use, defined as ≥300 mg per day, was seen in about 14.3% of of the mothers. (Santos 2012)

How Infant Sleep was Studied

When the babies were 3 months old, mothers were asked to report their babies’ sleep habits for about the last 2 weeks. Specifically, mothers were asked to describe 1) the number of hours of sleep during both the day and night; 2) bed sharing practice; 3) the number of night wakings and who woke up with the baby during the night; 4) the cause for nighttime wakings, if known; and 5) quality of child’s sleep patterns. Night waking was defined in this study as anytime a baby awakened and woke up the parent. Frequent waking was defined as 3 or more times per night.

Effects of Caffeine on Infants

In mothers, caffeine is quickly absorbed by the stomach and intestines, then it is distributed through breast milk to the baby. For a breastfeeding mother, about 0.6%-1.5% of the mothers’ dose is available to the baby. (Hale 2010) Though a small amount of caffeine is transferred to the baby through breast milk, the caffeine can accumulate because it is not easily broken down and eliminated from the body. For adults, caffeine stays in the body for about 4.9 hours; for newborns, it stays up to 97.5 hours. Thus newborns are especially sensitive to caffeint. This decreases with a baby’s age. By 6 months of age caffeine stays in the baby’s system only 2.6 hours. (Hale 2010)

Study Results

In this study, the highest prevalence of frequent night waking (3 or more times per night) was seen in breastfed infants whose mothers drank more than 300 mg of caffeine per day during the entire pregnancy and 3 month postpartum study periods. Even though this association was shown, it was not statistically significant. Also, the sample size of this specific group was only 40, and according to the authors, it’s possible that infants of the heavy caffeine drinking mothers developed a tolerance to the caffeine and possibly explaining why the caffeine did not affect the infants’ sleep.

Bottom Line

There are many reasons infants wake in the first 3 months postpartum. Some breastfed babies may be more sensitive to the caffeine intake of their mothers than others. For this study, in a small sample, there was an association, though insignificant, between breastfeeding mothers’ caffeine intake during pregnancy and 3 month postpartum with increased night waking in their infants. Other conclusions have been stated in other references. In their book, Breastfeeding: A guide for the medical professional, Lawrence and Lawrence reported that 6-8 cups of caffeinated beverages per day has been associated with shorter infant sleep duration. More research is needed to come to consensus as to the effects of caffeine on infant sleep.

*The recommendations for caffeine intake for nursing mothers is limited to about 2 servings of caffeinated beverages per day (Mannel, et al. eds, 2008). 


Santos IS, Matijasevich A, Domingues MR. Maternal Caffeine Consumption and Infant Nighttime Waking: Prospective Cohort Study. Pediatrics; 2012. [Epub ahead of print]

Lawrence, R. A., and Lawrence, R. M. (2010). Breastfeeding: A guide for the medical professional. Elsevier Mosby, Maryland Heights, Missouri.

Core curriculum for lactation consultant practice. International Lactation Consultant Association; edited by Rebecca Mannel, Patricia J Martens, and Marsha Walker, 2nd edition, 2008.

Monday, April 16, 2012

A quick reminder...

With nearly 60,000 page views in the last month, it seems that our blog is getting more and more popular! We are thrilled that so many parents are stopping by to read our information and we are grateful for each and every reader.

In the last few weeks, we've started getting more and more comments and emails from our readers. While we always encourage questions, feedback, and topic ideas, we want to take a few minutes to remind everyone about what kinds of information we can and cannot provide through this site.

  • Answer questions about general infant behavior and development (including sleep)
  • Provide evidence-based answers to questions about how babies communicate (like cues and crying)
  • Provide tips and resources for parents looking for support
  • Provide medical diagnoses
  • Provide one-on-one counseling for very specific feeding, sleep, or crying problems
  • Advertise other websites or products
All of our contributors would like to help our readers in any way possible, but we feel it is important not to provide information that we are not qualified to give. We are not medical doctors, we are researchers. Also, there are many issues that require in-person consultation, which is not possible given that we have readers all over the world.

If you have a question and are unsure if it is something we can help with, please send us an email. If we can provide answers and support, we will. If it is something that we feel needs more personalized or medical attention, we will let you know.
Thank you for your continued support of our blog and, as always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions!

Friday, April 13, 2012

April is Autism Awareness Month

April is autism awareness month. Nearly 1 out of every 88 children born today will develop some form of Autism spectrum disorder (Centers for Disease Control, 2008). Since this is not our area of expertise and we are not medical doctors, we thought that we would provide a few evidence-based resources for you to get more information about this disorder.

  • Visit the UC Davis Mind Institute, an international research center, for their latest research studies related to prevention and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
  • The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, is also a dependable site for research on autism including mapping of genes linked to autism.
  • The Autism Society provides information, support, and resources for families living with an autistic child. They also are a reliable source for the latest information in both local and national news about autism.
  • For general information about Autism spectrum disorders visit
These are just a few of the resources out there. We encourage you to always search for evidence-based information when making decisions of what resources to review!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Meet our newest contributor, Karolina

We are proud to introduce you to our newest contributor, Karolina! 

Karolina joined our center quite a while ago and, now that she's pregnant with her first child, we thought she'd be a wonderful addition to the Secrets of Baby Behavior team! Just like Jane, Jen B, and Jen G, Karolina is a Mom with a Master's! We've told you about ourselves in the past (click here), and now it's Karolina's turn:

I attended the University of Costa Rica, earning a Bachelor's degree in Clinical Nutrition back in 2005. Just after that I joined my husband in Folsom, CA since he had been relocated from our home country the previous year because of his job. After 18 months, we were relocated again, this time to Haifa, Israel and a year later to Tel Aviv. I spent almost 3 amazing years in Israel, learning a new language, traveling a lot and meeting new people. It was an amazing experience! After moving back to Folsom I attended the University of California, Davis, earning a Master's degree in Maternal and Child Nutrition in 2011. As a graduate student I worked at State WIC as part of the Nutrition Education, Marketing and Outreach (NEMO) Section and then completed my graduation project while working as part of the team at the Human Lactation Center. Now that I'm pregnant with our first baby I just realize how much I still have to learn about Baby Behavior and parenting! I'm sure it's an ongoing learning experience which never stops. We get to meet our baby, David, this summer and I am so thrilled to share this ride with you from the very beginning! 

So, watch for future posts from Karolina! She's going to post some great information about pregnancy and prenatal Baby Behavior. And once baby David arrives, I am sure he'll give us tons of inspiration for new and exciting topics! As always, let us know about any questions you'd like us to answer!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter!

We want to wish a happy Easter to all of our readers who are celebrating. We'll be back next week with a new post!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Reader question part 2: Do babies’ personalities influence their adult personalities?

Last week we answered part of a reader’s question about how baby sleep patterns are related to how they sleep as adults. Today we’ll answer the 2nd part of her question about whether or not infant personalities carry over into adulthood.

Reader Question: I would love to learn more about how emerging personalities in infancy correlate with later more established adult personalities.

Infants are born with a set of personality traits that form their temperament. Some of these traits remain as babies get older while others change over time. A while back, we posted a 2-part series on infant personalities and shared information about the different temperaments of babies. In part 1, we talk about some of the elements of temperament and how they translate into your child’s unique personality traits. You can look at your baby’s temperament for clues about the child he or she will become!

In part 2 of this post we talk about how a baby’s temperament influences his or her relationships and how to best work with your baby’s personality to make life run as smoothly as possible. Tips for introducing shy babies to new places or people are included.

In another post, we share some specifics about babies with brave personalities that turn into adventurous children. Read the following post: Reader Question: Dealing with “Brave” Babies.

I can attest that many of the early personality traits of my daughter have continued on as she is now about to turn 5 years old. As a baby, she felt emotions very intensely and still does to this day. She was a highly active baby and now is a little girl that is on the go nonstop. Much of her temperament from infancy I can see in her as she becomes a “big” girl. We’ll have to stay tuned to see if these traits follow her into adulthood, but I have a feeling they will!

We hope this has been helpful! Tell us about the different temperaments and personalities of your children! We would love to hear your stories!