2019-03-06

My First Track Meet

Last weekend I competed at the USATF Masters Indoor Track and Field Championships. I took home a couple of medals but mostly it was an exercise in humility! It was great fun, I made some excellent friends, and I left feeling incredibly invigorated.


My journey to the nationals began last Summer. As I have blogged about before, I participate in the annual summer track meets hosted by Carolina Godiva Track Club. These are informal events with participants ranging from 8 to 80 years in age. I have never trained for them and have mostly viewed them as a fun, social way to get in some speed work for my distance running.

Last year, though, my world was rocked at one of these events when a 60-year-old woman named Becky lined up next to me in the 100m dash and ran neck and neck with me the entire way - wow, I was impressed! It turns out that she was the US national 100m champion in the women's 60-64 age division. Between her, Louise (78 years old), and William (77) - all of whom came out to some of the summer track meets - I was thoroughly inspired.

Although I have never run track competitively, I spent the first half of my life as a sprinter of sorts on the football field. I carry around a lot of muscle that does me no good in long distance but helps me generate power in a sprint. Whether for these reasons or for the reason that I've just been getting kind of bored training for the same 5-10k distance races for the last 15 years, the inspiration I felt from Becky, Louise, and William motivated me to make a change. In August of last year, I shifted gears and began training as a sprinter.

Another friend from summer track nights, Cindy, took me under her wing and helped me get started. As a world class track and field athlete, she helped me ramp up quickly in this new world. Her husband, Dante (an Olympic-caliber 400m runner himself), helped and supported too. It was hard to make consistent improvement throughout the Fall, though, as I was traveling a great deal and getting sick every other week as our son brought home various bugs from the petri dish that is daycare.

I ran two "test" track meets, one in October and one in January. The results weren't great and, due to my inconsistent training, I wasn't showing much progress. I recognized several friends at the January meet, though, and they encouraged me to join the Piedmont Pacers, a local track club that competes together as a team at these types of events.

Joining the Pacers really marked a turning point in my training. At least once a week I began joining a team practice with other Pacers. Louise, who turned out to be a Pacer, brought along her teammate, Angela. Rick, a very fast sprinter and middle distance runner about my age - brought along his awesome wife, Ryan. Even Becky, who isn't a Pacer and lives hours away, would come join us when she would happen to be in town. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am 110% extrovert so turning training into a team event really supercharged my workouts.

When March rolled around, it was time to see if the training had been paying off. To be clear, my times indicated that I wouldn't be terribly competitive. I was still new to track, still trying to remind my muscles how to fast-twitch, and, to boot, I would be the oldest competitor in the 35-39 age division - just three weeks shy of moving up to 40-44! However, I thought it would be good experience for me and I hoped to help the Pacers earn at least a few points, so I left my pride at the door and headed to Winston-Salem for three days of intense competition.

Day 1

400m
On the first day of competition, I only had one event: the 400m. In January I had run a 1:08, which is substantially slower than my outdoor 400m times from the Summer. Because indoor tracks are shorter, requiring more time in tighter turns, I expect my times to be a little slower but I was hoping to bring my time down at least to 1:06. An even-ish race plan was to run a 32s split for the first lap and 34s for the second lap.

Well, best laid plans! I went out way too fast, probably pulled along by my much-faster-than-I-am competitors. When I saw the clock at 30s as I finished my first lap (barely slower than my 200m PR), I knew I was in for a world of pain in the second. The rest of that race seemed interminable - all the more so because I was basically running by myself at that point - but I finally crossed the finish line in 1:06.66.

It was an improvement but not quite what I had hoped for. I'll try to settle in and run my race next time. Dropping some excess weight will help too; I averaged 529W of power over the course of the race and that could propel a lighter version of myself much more quickly. Regardless, I have a long way to go; the winning time was 51.42!

Day 2

60m
I had three events to run the second day, starting with the 60m. The 60 is a pure, all-out sprint so I had no strategy other than run as fast as I could. The start really matters in the 60 since it is such a short race. I'm still pretty new to starting out of blocks but I was hoping my recent practice would pay off.

When the gun went off, my reaction time was good. I had violent arm swings and rapid step turnover. My top speed just isn't very good yet, though. My poor flexibility limits the range of each step and my competitors all pulled away as the race went on. I finished in 8.75, nearly two seconds slower than the winning 6.88. 8.75 was a new PR for me, so I'm pleased with the progress, but I have a lot of room for improvement. In addition to flexibility, I really need to work on explosive power for this race. I'm stepping out of my blocks rather than exploding out of them.

4x800m
After several hours of waiting around, my next event was the 4x800 with Matt (41 years old), Kevin (43), and Rick (38). A team's youngest member determines its age category so we were competing in the M35-39 division. 

Matt, who was battling a calf injury, started us off well with a 2:42 leg. I took the baton and ran a very uneven 2:47. My first lap was - surprise, surprise - way too fast so, after I passed two competitors, I settled down. I may have slowed down too much but it was hard to know my pace as I had taken the baton at an odd time and my brain was way too oxygen-deprived to do math! I averaged 432W on my leg.

Kevin did better, running 2:46 with disturbingly even splits. Seriously, he might be a robot! Rick, our fastest runner, started off hot, running a 32s first lap. We could see that the first place team was way ahead of us and we had a commanding lead over the third place team, so we called out to Rick to slow down and save his juice for the next race. He wound up running a 2:33, putting us at 10:48, which was good enough for the silver medal - huzzah!

4x200m
No sooner had we finished the 4x800 than we had to line up for the 4x200. Our 4x200 team had the same members and we ran in the same order so at least our exhausted minds didn't have to think much.

Matt ran a good 29s opening leg. He had to pass the baton to me in the outer lane on a curve, though, which was a bit of a challenge. I ran 30s (577W), as did Kevin after me, and then Rick brought home the anchor leg in 27s. Our final time was 1:56 but the competition was much stiffer in this race and we were only good enough for 4th. 

Day 3

200m
Having run the final heat of the final event of the day before, I was among the last competitors to leave the track. Naturally my first race the next day was early so . . . no rest for the weary!

Because my projected time was the slowest (by far!) in my heat, I was assigned to lane 1, meaning I had to run the tightest turns. When the gun went off, I had another powerful start, but I had to bend that power around a tight curve - and then another one at the other end of the track. I finished in 29.25 (633W), an indoor track PR for me, but far behind my competition. The same notes apply: I have a lot of work to do to increase my top speed.

4x400m
Our team reunited to run the final heat of the final event of the track meet: the 4x400.  We were tired and sore from days of competition but adrenaline pumped us up as we neared the starting line. The same teams who had beaten us soundly the day before were out there again but they were tired and sore too, so anything could happen.

Matt again started us off well, hobbling through a 1:06 opening leg, maneuvering us into 4th place. I grabbed the baton and all soreness seemed to leave my legs. It's hard to tell from the race video, but it looks like a ran a PR 1:04 (553W) for my leg.

It seems strange that I should be able to run seconds faster (and sustain higher power output) over 400m on the third day of competition vs the first. I definitely can't attribute the performance increase to a running start as we were being extra cautious with our handoffs to ensure that we didn't drop the baton. I have two hypotheses:
  1. I'm a team sports guy, not an individual sports guy. Put me out there with teammates depending on me and I will rise to the occasion.
  2. In the relays, other runners are spread more evenly around the track, motivating me to surge and pass them. Compare that to the individual events, during which the closest I ever was to the competition was when were at the starting line!
Regardless of the mechanism, I ran a good time (for me) and passed two competitors to put us in 2nd. Kevin ran a strong 1:13 and then Rick brought us home with a smoking 58s anchor leg. Final result: 4:21, good enough for another silver medal!

Final Thoughts

As I returned home, exhausted but exhilarated, I reflected on my first real track meet experience. Here are a few of my final take-aways:
  • It was fun - a lot of fun! I didn't expect that. There were long stretches between my races when I intended to sneak away to a cafe to get some work done but staying and cheering for my friends as they competed kept me at the track.
  • I loved being on a team; that made all the difference in the world, adding meaning to every race. The Pacers finished 7th in the team points competition and I was proud to have helped contribute 15 of those points through our relay performances. Being part of a team also gave me more people to cheer for throughout the meet.
  • I wonder how "valid" the results of the competition are. It's neat to receive a silver medal and claim that our team earned #2 in the nation but we were really only #2 of those present at the meet. How many faster teams might be out there who didn't have the time, money, or other wherewithal to travel across the country to compete? This point isn't very important to me since I'm really not in it for the medals, but it did make me wonder.
  •  What I will remember most about this meet is the friendliness and supportiveness of all of the competitors. Before each race, competitors shook hands and wished each other luck. Between races, I met and made fast friends with competitors from all over the country and with very diverse backgrounds. Kudos to the USATF and JDL Fast Track for cultivating such a culture of positive sportsmanship - that is, after all, what sports are all about!

2019-01-27

Parenting Recommendations 3: Parenting Books

My final post on parenting for the moment: here's a list of postpartum parenting books I've read so far, again sorted by my rating, descending.

The Science of Mom (another evidence-based book for the first year postpartum) is the only top ranked of these for which I have notes:

  • Good review of scientific method, publication
  • Delayed cord clamping 2 min
    • More blood, iron 88% higher iron at 6 months of age and low iron leads to lower test scores this is especially important for breastfed babies because breast milk does not contain much iron
  • Vitamin k shot
    • Get it
    • Initial link to cancer disproven by subsequent research
  • Eye profilaxis
    • Consider delaying until after initial bonding up to one hour
    • babies don't see as well with it so it may inhibit initial bonding
    • could affect microbiome
  • Breastfeeding
    • Benefits primarily during infancy (eg immunoprotecton)
    • possible long term benefits on cognitive development
    • introduce solids 4-6 months (but let baby lead), continuing breastfeeding
    • start with low allergenic foods and gradually introduce foods with greater allergenic potential one at a time
    • avoid cow's milk until one year bc it can lead to iron deficiency
    • Meat good for heme iron but limit liver to a few servings per week to avoid too much vitamin A
    • Egg yolks good for iron and DHA
  • Sleeping
    • Safest place is in the same room but in separate bassinet
    • Expose to natural light during day (even when napping) for first three months to establish circadian rythyms
    • prepare baby for sleep before they become overly tired
    • institute pre-sleep routines
    • self soothing babies are put to bed while awake, not soothed to sleep because falling asleep is a learned skill
    • wait a couple minutes to respond at night; confirm that crying is distress, not baby noises
    • babies use sleep aids; make sure you aren't it
    • use a sleep aid when you're all together to lay the foundation for making the transition to more independent sleep easier
  • Feeding Solids
    • Whole grains have more phytates, which could reduce iron absorption, than refined grains. Soaking grains reduces their phytates.
    • Fruit instead of juice. If juice, dilute it with water and serve in a cup, not a bottle.

Parenting Recommendations 2: Prenatal Books

Each time we became pregnant, I was both elated and scared as it reminded me that I don't know anything about babies! My way of dealing with that anxiety was to read everything I could get my hands on. And since we were cumulatively pregnant much longer than nine months, I managed to read a lot! Some of the books were great, most were OK, and some were downright terrible.

Here are the prenatal books I read sorted by [my] rating, descending. And for the top books, here are my notes, because you may have other things to do than reading all the time! Caveat: these notes are not necessarily complete or good; they reflect what I took out of each book at the time.

Expecting Better (evidence-based analysis of "conventional" prenatal "wisdom"):

  • obese women (before pregnancy) have more pregnancy complications
  • up to 2-3 drinks / week first Tri
  • up to 7 drinks / week rest of term
  • avoid raw milk / raw milk cheeses / queso fresco
  • avoid undercooked meat and deli turkey
  • raw egg fine
  • seek high omega-3 / low mercury fish, e.g. salmon, sardines
  •  6 vomits average per pregnancy
  •  vitamin b6, ginger for nausea
  •  CVS and amniocentesis both safe, but CVS better/earlier
  •  Avoid raising body temperature to 101+ during first trimester
  •  Hair dye is probably fine
  •  Avoid gardening or at least wash hands thoroughly
  •  Gain 25-35 lbs during pregnancy but err on the high side
  •  Regular exercise good but don't go above 90% HR
  •  Kegels good and reduce labor time
  •  Yoga probably good
  •  Sleeping on back probably fine unless you feel faint
  •  Medication - check safefetus.com and stick to A and B class drugs
  •  Bed rest not effective for reducing pre term labor
  •  Cervical effacement in addition to dilation a good indicator of labor readiness
  •  Intermittent fetal monitoring better than continuous during labor
  •  For labor augmentation, break water first then try drugs
  •  Just say no to episiotomy - cutting the vagina
  •  Vitamin k shot after birth is OK
  •  Having a doula is good
  •  Epidural has pros and cons
  •  Drink fluids during labor (including calories like Gatorade)
  •  Induction problematic so make sure fluid levels are measured deepest pocket, while well hydrated, and consider a second test
  •  Clapping effective sugar ineffective for non stress test
  •  Nipple stimulation and membrane sweeping work for inducing labor
  •  Vaginal birth preferred


The Informed Parent (same, evidence-based approach but extending beyond prenatal to the first few years of childhood):

  • No evidence for benefit of eating placenta
  • Pediatricians: personal experience, beliefs, staying current on literature
    • use online questionnaire (including this book's website) to interview pediatricians
    • AAP (American Academy of Pediatricians)
  • Induction: reduces risk of cesarean birth in late-term pregnancies
  • Augmentation: combination of mechanical (e.g. forceps) and chemical
  • (e.g. oxytocin) may help modestly speed along slow labor but either individually not effective
  • Episiotomy not beneficial, often worse
  • Pain
    • Epidural works; combined spinal epidural (w/ local anesthetic) works faster
    • Epidural associated with more cesarean and intstrumented (e.g. forceps) births
    • Nitrous associated with dizziness, nausea/vomiting
    • Sedatives work but not as well as opioids
    • Immersion in water and relaxation/massage techniques may work
    • Acupuncture associated with fewer interventions and cesarean births
    • Water injection, aromatherapy, biofeedback - insufficient evidence that they work
  • Cesarean
    • slightly higher risk for mom
    • First stage labor: 0.5-0.7 cm dilation / hour (for first time moms - 0.5-1.3 cm/hour for experienced moms)
    • Second stage labor: outcomes good for 3 hours pushing (first time moms - 2 hours experienced moms); labor augmentation like forceps or vacuum => < 3% need cesarean
    • Fetal heart rate: stimulation of fetal scalp, mom position change, amnioinfusion (saline into uterus) may address HR irregularities
    • Induction does not increase risk of cesarean delivery
    • Breech Position: external cephalic version => only 21% need cesarean
    • Big Baby: < 11 lbs (or 9 lbs 14 oz w/ gestational diabetes) => evidence does not support automatic cesarean
  • Circumcision
    • Very few risks, most of which go away in modern medical procedures
    • Benefits reduce risk of penile cancer, reduce rate of STI contraction, reduce rate of UTI
  • Disposable diapers about even with cloth diapers for cradle-to-grave environmental impact - compostable disposables have an edge
  • Breastfeeding
    • Wide variety of better outcomes for children (dose-dependent: the more, the better)
    • Especially when fed at the breast (rather than pumped bottle) as breastmilk composition adapts to baby's nutritional needs
    • Exclusively breastfed babies need Vitamin K (shot) and sometimes iron and Vitamin D (supplement)
    • Premature/underweight babies benefit so much from breast feeding that donated milk is prescribed over formula
    • Up to 24 months of breastfeeding => benefits for the mom; after 24 months is understudied
    • Not all women can breastfeed (primary lactation failure - unable to produce milk at all - vs secondary - something interferes with breastfeeding early on)
    • Baby should breastfeed 8-12 times per 24 hours and should suck at least 10 min on each breast, feeling sleepy afterward
    • Baby should have 6 wet diapers / day and 4 yellow, seedy, cottage cheese-like stools / day
    • 44% of mothers don't get milk w/i 72 hours of birth
    • Nipple pain common in first week but may indicate a problem after that
      • Vasospasm: nipple turns white then blue as blood returns
      • Thrush: yeast infection causing red, sore nipples
      • Clogged ducts: tender lump
      • Mastitis: infection causing red, hot breasts with pea-sized lump
      • Expressed milk helps relieve nipple pain
    • Tongue tie in 3-11% of babies (mostly male) easily addressed with frenotomy (~100% success)
    • D-MER is a condition that causes negative feelings for mom during let-down but passes quickly
    • Low milk supply:
      • Relaxation can help a little
      • Metaclopramide increases prolactin levels for 1.5 oz more breastmilk per feeding but should only be used for 3 weeks
      • Fenugreek (~600mg) helped in a small, poorly documented study
      • Milk thistle helped in a very small study
      • Shatavari helped in a small study
      • Torbangun helped in a small study
    • Moderate caffeine and alcohol probably fine while breast feeding (no need to pump and dump) but we don't know much about marijuana
    • LACTMED is a database of mom medications and their effects on breastfed babies
    • Feed when baby is hungry; little/no evidence of benefits of feeding according to a schedule
  • Feeding
    • Teething usually 4-7 months
    • No evidence that adding complementary foods at 4 months vs 6 months is beneficial (except slightly higher iron levels)
    • One study shows better growth with meat as a complementary food vs cereal
    • Preschoolers told to clean their plates ask for more food even when away from home
    • Children for whom food is offered as a reward are more overweight
    • Screen time associated with weight in children most likely due to mindless eating and advertising of unhealthy foods
    • Inadequate sleep associated with childhood obesity
    • Children who regularly drink sugary drinks are heavier and more likely obese
    • Family meals reduce risk of obesity
    • Portion size and plate size can reduce overeating
    • CAN framework: make healthy food Convenient, Attractive, and Normal
    • Vitamin D deficiency possible if exclusively breastfed - especially if Mom has it
    • Cow's milk promotes vitamin D but inhibits iron; two cups a day seems to be a good balance
    • To address child's resistance to new foods, eat variety of foods while pregnant and repeatedly expose child to new foods without comment, pressure, or urging. Also exclusive breastfeeding to six months helps.
    • Allergies: small risk reduction when introducing potatoes before 4 months, oats before 5 months, meat and wheat before 6 months, rye before 7 months, fish before 8 months, and eggs before 11 months
  • Tdap and flu vaccines recommended for Mom
  • Cdc vaccine schedule recommended for baby
  • Private cord blood banking not likely to be helpful
  • Normal birth weight 5.5-8.8 lbs
  • Get the vitamin k shot
  • Erythromycin not helpful if mother is sti-free
  • Delay cord clamping 2-5 minutes to get lots of iron-rich blood to babies since breast feeding won't get them much iron
  • Mother-baby skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth associated with better breastfeeding outcomes, better mother-baby interactions 1 year later, improved blood sugar levels, decreased crying
  • Either parent may not feel immediately bonded with baby - but fake it till you make it
  • Crying
    • Pain: rapidly escalating to maximum intensity with eyes squeezed shut (repeated like a siren at the highest level)
    • Fear: rapidly escalating to maximum intensity with eyes open
    • Anger: gradually escalating with eyes half closed
  • Soothing:
    • Swaddle
    • Side/stomach
    • Sway
    • Shush (including mom singing)
    • Suck
    • Skin-to-skin (including breastfeeding)
  • Pacifier benefits: pain relief, comfort, slightly lower risk of SIDS
  • Pacifier risks: increased ear infection rate, increased risk of teeth misalignment after 18 months. No evidence pacifiers cause diads to stop breastfeeding sooner or nipple confusion.
  • Sleeping:
    • Mothers who spend awake time in front of screens (computer, TV, etc - phone?) are awake longer than those who don't
    • Infants sleep average 13 hours / day, wake up 3 times / night, tend to transition to more predictable sleep patterns ~3 months
    • Research on bed sharing safety not great - not nearly as categorically unsafe as opponents claim (most studies don't control for other risk factors, e.g. smoking, many blur the lines of what is considered "bed sharing," e.g. including infant deaths on couches, many don't consider whether parents routinely bed share and employ best practices)
    • Increasing bed sharing risk: sofas, smoking, alcohol (or other depressant), multiple kids in bed, excessively tired parents, infant on pillow or blanket, premature infant, bed sharing with anyone other than parent, exclusive formula feeding
    • Reducing bed sharing risk: firm mattress, infant on back without blankets / pillow / mother's clothing, no strangulation hazards nearby, infant can't fall out of bed or get trapped, no smoke / alcohol / drugs, mom is not a heavy or restless sleeper, only mom shares the sleeping surface, infant isn't at risk of overheating
    • Sleep training is effective in ~80% of infants (4 months +) and no adverse long term effects have been found
    • Bed time routines helpful for sleep
    • Mother's emotional availability and responsiveness before bedtime helpful for sleep. Hypothesis: infant's feeling of security at bedtime persists through waking times so infant is more able to self soothe.
  • BPA has a high correlation (and likely causation) with negative biomarkers
  • No cough meds for children under 4 (unless doctor says so); honey (for children over 1) helps symptoms
  • Children's acetaminophen and ibuprofen OK
  • Avoid homeopathic and essential oils
  • Melatonin can help autistic or ADHD children fall asleep with few side effects
  • Keep guns out of the house; at worst, keep them unloaded and locked up. 1 in 3 parents of baby's friends will have guns so ensure they do the same.
  • Children don't learn anything from things on screens until ~24 months old
  • TV negative for children not just directly but also indirectly through less parental interaction
  • Advertising on TV often leads to more childhood obesity
  • TVs in child's bedrooms associated with poorer sleep and greater obesity
  • Media violence is associated with more aggressive children
  • Developmental Milestones
    • 6 months
      • Turns head when hearing name called
      • Briefly sits without support
      • Smiles
      • Plays peek-a-boo
    • 1 year
      • Waves bye-bye
      • Pulls to standing
      • Might say "dada" or "mama"
    • 18 months
      • Follows pointing and also points
      • Uses several words
      • Walks
    • 2 years
      • Uses short phrases
      • Can point to named objects
      • Follows one-step instructions
    • 3 years
      • Uses sentences of 4-5 words
      • Climbs
      • Engages in pretend play
      • Copies parents and peers
  • Reading
    • Infant reading programs don't work
    • Talk to child as early and as much as possible
    • Keep books around and expose early/often
    • Read stories to child; ask open ended questions about the story/characters
  • Discipline
    • Children unable to reason before ~3yo => negative reinforcement ineffective
    • Give attention for positive behavior, praise more effective for already compliant children
    • Withdraw attention for negative behavior
    • Maintain consistent routines
    • Consistent, immediate responses to behavior
    • Model the desired behavior (and not the undesired behavior!)
    • Clear, calm verbalization in age-appropriate language of what child did wrong and what he should have done
    • Help child make choices and understand consequences
    • The stronger the attachment to the parent, the more effective discipline is
    • Effective negative reinforcement:
      • Nonverbal (looks)
      • Verbal (calm and firm, not harsh, which is counterproductive)
      • time out or removing privileges to reinforce the reprimands
        • time out only works if "time in" is something child wants to be part of
        • time out is a removal of privileges, not a punishment (must be done calmly, no shaming)
        • 1 minute too short, 4 minutes effective for children age 3-6
        • some studies suggest a sliding time scale is more effective: time out ends after some time of good behavior; the clock resets with each outburst
    • Corporal punishment associated with 12 negative outcomes and dose-dependent
    • No evidence for long-term positive effects from corporal punishment
  • Toilet training
    • don't rush, shame, or pressure
    • 40-60% of children complete toilet training by age 3
    • Girls usually master it (22 months) younger than boys (25 months)
    • If child masters urination in the toilet but not BM, consider stool softening approaches
  • Childcare
    • Any effects of childcare are modest
    • Family factors (home environment, socioeconomic status, etc.) have 2-3x more effect than childcare
    • Quality of childcare matters a lot
    • Childcare associated with very mild behavioral problems that fade away by 3rd-5th grade
    • Childcare associated with stronger social skills, more self confidence, challenge management, self entertainment, more outgoing, less stress
    • Higher quality childcare with better trained caregivers associated with better performance on standardized tests
    • Daycare centers associated with independence, social skills, and higher test scores from age 2 through 3rd grade
    • Regardless of childcare, least problematic children come from homes with sensitive fathers who encourage independence, mothers who let children decide their own activities, and parents who have a loving / emotionally intimate relationship with each other
    • Families of daycare children lose an additional 13 days of sick leave (over the first 6 months?)
    • These GI, upper respiratory, and ear infections are going to happen whenever the child first begins regularly interacting with other peers.
    • Preschool offers academic benefits to lower class families, not much for upper-middle class families
    • The home learning environment (being read to, exposure to computers, etc.) has a much greater impact on academic success


What's Going On In There (detailed look at prenatal and postpartum neural development)

  • Get purposeful prenatal winter daylight exposure for babies born april-june, who have a higher chance (18% vs 12%) of being very shy
  • First hour skin to skin contact does not seem to have extraordinary bonding benefits
  • Increasing variety of touch stimulation is likely to enhance brain development
  • Loving touch, stimulation, and massage have shown to improve health of infants
  • Bouncing, rocking, carrying stimulates the vestibular system
  • Breast feeding babies smarter than bottle feeding even adjusting for socioeconomic factors
  • Taurine in human breast milk (also in formula) probably helpful for brain and retina nerve development
  • Human breastmilk provides not just the essential fatty acids but also the enzymes with which to break them down
  • Breastfeeding babies prefer (suck longer) variety in tastes that come through breast milk
  • Alcohol still present in breast milk 3 hours after ingestion
  • Brain growth spurt through two years of age => especially important to have adequate fat in diet
  • Visual acuity develops rapidly - from 20/600 vision at birth to 20/20 later. Initially babies can only detect high contrast (e.g. black on white) and only "where" vs "what" but these both change rapidly. The most crucial period of development is 6-12 months so, if there are any visual abnormalities (e.g. crossed eyes or cataracts), get them fixed within the first six months.
  • First two months peripheral vision more developed than direct
  • Binocularity onset happens rapidly between 2 and 5 months as the cortex takes over image processing
  • While vision develops late and matures quickly, hearing matures early and matures gradually.
  • Sounds above 85 dB can damage newborn hearing
  • Newborns don't recognize daddy's voice until a few weeks
  • Up to one year of age, best for baby to hear one thing at a time, not lots of noise
  • Motherese good after high pitch response develops around 3 months
  • Lots of tummy time recommended to develop upper body strength, coordination
  • Walkers don't help walking
  • Holding baby upright to practice walking helps
  • Gentle challenging helps
  • Parenting style matters more than whether a child goes to daycare:
    • Less sensitive mothers trend to have less securely attached infants
    • Attached babies have lower stress response to unfamiliar stimuli
    • Temperament is lower limbic system and is genetically determined while personality is upper limbic system and is experientially determined
    • Parents must strike a balance between smothering attentiveness and fostering independence; children of always-attentive parents are less securely attached than those of parents who intermittently give them space to explore, fall down, etc.
  • Babies distinguish speech (left brain) better with right ear and music (right brain) with left ear
  • Toddler vocabulary usually explodes once they have 50 words
  • Language development contributors
    • Parents who talk to them more
    • More positive feedback (in all areas, not just about language development); corrections not helpful
    • Socioeconomic status of parents (Poor: 600 words a day directed toward baby, working class: 1200 words a day, professional class: 2100 words a day)
    • *Repetition (eg same nursery rhyme) to reinforce neutral pathways
    • Repetition with substitution and expansion
    • books
  • IQ physiology
    • Head circumference correlated 0.14 with iq (born more than 14" average 7 pts higher than born less than 12.75")
    • ‎brain volume correlated 0.35
    • stimulus response time correlated 0.5
  • Prefrontal lobes control wisdom and executive function, not iq
  • High quality Daycare centers generally show better cognitive development than home care
    • Student teacher ratio < 1:5 2yo, 1:7 3yo, 1:10 4yo
    • Not the time for academic focus
  • Iron helpful in second 6 months
  • Breast feeding for a full year
  • Rotate toys in and out weekly to combat habituation
  • Exposure to other people and places associated with higher IQ
  • But guard against overstimulation

Parenting Recommendations 1

Recently several of our friends have become pregnant for the first time, which has motivated us to send them lots of unsolicited advice. While our suggestions may be worth exactly what they're paying for them, I'm posting them here in case others might find them helpful. In no particular order, here are our first few:

1. We have really enjoyed the Longest Shortest Time podcast. Each episode is someone's story about prenatal, post partum, or parenting wonkiness. Some of the stories are sad, some are joyful, some are traumatic, some are inspiring. Some resonate with our own experiences, some don't. We found them all to help normalize the entire process of becoming parents for us - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

2. I won't claim that men are even on the same playing field as women when it comes to body changes during pregnancy but male partners DO also experience some physiological changes, including increased estrogen production. I found myself putting on weight and decreasing performance in athletic competitions around this time last year. This phenomenon, possibly combined with the psychological impact of less sunlight, led me to feel a little down until I recognized that it could have physiological roots. Something for men to keep that in mind in case they experience something similar.

3. If you are planning to try breastfeeding, go ahead and - long before you are due - schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant for a few days after your delivery date. You can always reschedule if you deliver late (Or early!) or if your baby is already breastfeeding like a champ. However, if breastfeeding isn't coming along as well as you might hope, you will already have the appointment scheduled. Most hospitals include some lactation support in the maternity ward but our lactation consultant at The Women's Birth & Wellness Center was orders of magnitude more helpful. Because she dedicated 90 minutes just to us, she was able to observe a full feed of our baby nursing, try a few different approaches with us, and measure the impact of each. Highly recommended.

4. Classes: NC Women's, where we delivered, offers many of them and we took them all. Here's a brief roundup of some that we took - and, if you aren't in Chapel Hill, there may be similar classes near you.

Childcare Options - this is really about the NC rating system for childcare centers. I was hoping for a bigger picture evaluation of pros/cons of different types of childcare - e.g. in home vs. childcare centers - but it was definitely helpful in navigating the rating system for centers.

Bootcamp for New Dads - As someone who knows nothing about babies, I was hoping for a more hands-on-practice class (This is how you hold a baby, this is how you change a baby, etc.) but this class was a little higher-level. What is the dad's role in pregnancy, delivery, postpartum, etc. Still very helpful, though. A cool feature was that they bring back dads from previous classes and their now 2-4-month-old babies for show/tell and a view from the front lines.

Accupressure for Labor - This was really cool! They demonstrated several different specific accupressure targets/techniques that ostensibly will help with labor. This was a very hands-on class so we got to try things out there on the spot and get help from the instructors. One of the attendees delivered a few hours later so it must have worked!

Sign Language for babies - also really cool! Because babies develop visual and motor skills before developing verbal skills, there is a significant window during which they can't communicate with you verbally but they can via sign language. The class covered the basic theory of baby sign language and then we practiced lots of relevant signs - milk, eat, diaper, change, etc.

4th Trimester - this was great! Each couple had a baby doll with which to practice diaper changing, swaddling, and putting in different types of wrappable carriers. It was a little "OMG watch out for this and don't do that" for my taste but overall was a really helpful three hours.

Infant CPR - this was good. They had mannequins to practice on so it was pretty hands-on. It was a bit longer than it needed to be and it was front-loaded with adult CPR so we were actually kind of rushed at the end for the infant CPR portion.

Breastfeeding - it also was longer than it needed to be as it spent a lot of time selling us on breastfeeding (We're already pretty sold -hence signing up for the class!). Once it got past the selling, though, it was great, providing lots of information on what a good latch should look/feel/sound like, showing videos of the inside of the infant's mouth during breastfeeding, and showing off all the different colors of infant poop as they progress from newborn to infant.