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New parents confused by conflicting advice

Updated: April 14, 2013 2:09AM



Q. We just had our first child, and we’re getting more advice from people than sleep. Some say you need to breastfeed, and others say it’s fine not to. Some say pick the child up when he cries; others say let him cry himself to sleep. My wife wants to breastfeed for a year or so, and my instinct is to pick my son up when he cries.

A. You and your wife are right on the money. There are many health benefits from breastfeeding — and if it lasts a year, they are particularly strong. For the child, mom’s milk is the first super-step to a strong immune system. Plus, breast milk is the perfect nutrition for baby’s physical growth and brain development. And there are benefits for Mom: She bonds with her baby, and lowers her own risk of cancer, osteoporosis and diabetes. Breastfeeding moms also return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster than moms who don’t.

As for comforting a crying child, we’re all for it. You can learn the meanings of the different sounding cries, and it turns out infants and kids who are soothed when upset are more secure. That contributes to the development of all-important personality traits such as empathy and generosity. There’s a lot of research that supports this concept and some says there’s an epidemic of anxiety and depression in kids in the U.S. that can be attributed to the lack of comforting and touching — kids sleep in isolation from their parents, spend too much time in car seats and strollers, and there are few extended families to offer additional support and care. The bottom line: Children who don’t get sufficient emotional nurturing early on may end up being more self-centered.

Q. It seems like everyone is talking about how dangerous concussions are for football players. I don’t actually see that many guys getting knocked out, so what’s really going on?

A. Concussions happen frequently in the NFL, even if you don’t see them all on TV. And we’re just beginning to understand how serious they are long term. It turns out that brain damage following repeat concussions — particularly if a person isn’t given enough time to heal before going back into the game — can lead to personality changes, depression, loss of cognitive ability, balance and coordination problems, and early death.

But your brain doesn’t have to slam against the inside of your skull to suffer a concussion or brain damage. All it takes is a movement of 7 millimeters! And you don’t have to lose consciousness. Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu estimates he’s had 50 to 100 concussions, but rarely got medical attention for “the buzz.”

The lesson for you? Always wear a helmet when you step into a batter’s box, bike (cycle or motor), rollerblade or play any contact sport. And if you ever get a concussion, give yourself time to recover and try taking an extra 900 mg a day of DHA omega-3 from salmon, trout or supplements to speed healing.

King Features



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