Entries in Infancy (12)


Iowa Baby Weighs In at Nearly 14 Pounds

Photodisc/Thinkstock(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Asher Stewardson was born Thursday at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa, tipping the scales at nearly 14 pounds.

Watch the video report below, courtesy ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Male Circumcision Is Medically Beneficial, Experts Say

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(NEW YORK) -- Male circumcision continues to be debated in America.

This spring ABC News tracked the war waged on the procedure in San Francisco as anti-circumcision “inactivitsts” attempted to ban infant circumcision altogether. This summer Colorado became the 19th state to defund Medicaid coverage for infant circumcision, following in the footsteps of South Carolina, which made the cut in February.

With more states considering defunding as a way to cut health care costs, two Johns Hopkins epidemiologists decided it was time to speak up for circumcision. In an editorial published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Aaron Tobian and Dr. Ronald Gray argue for the medical benefits of circumcising boys in infanthood, citing several observational studies and recent clinical trials that show it reduces the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV, HPV and herpes by about a third in both men and their female sexual partners.

“This is a simple surgery that’s been performed for over 6,000 years.  Clearly it’s safe to perform, and it has clear medical benefits,” says Tobian.

Just 20 years ago as many as 67 percent of all male infants born in U.S. hospitals were circumcised. Today, that number hovers around 32 percent, in part due to decreased funding for the poor and a rise in controversy over the ethics of the practice. Opponents claim circumcision is a form of genital mutilation without medical benefit.

“The foreskin is there for a reason,” Lloyd Schofield, who spearheaded the San Francisco anti-circumcision bill, told ABC News in May.  Shofield called circumcision an “unnecessary surgery” with no “sound medical evidence” behind it.

Recent studies suggests otherwise, Gray and Tobian argue.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Infant that Sparked End-of-Life Care Debates Dies

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Baby Joseph, the 20-month-old terminally ill infant at the center of an end-of-life debate, died Tuesday in his Ontario home as his parents wished.

Joseph Maraachli, who had come to be known as "Baby Joseph," was thrust into the forefront of the end-of-life debate in February, when Canadian doctors told his parents, Moe and Nader Maraachli, that no treatment could bring their baby out of a persistent vegetative state. Joseph had Leigh syndrome, a progressive, degenerative neurological disease, which had claimed the life of his brother eight years ago at the age of 18 months.

Because Joseph's condition was terminal, the Canadian government's universal health care system denied him the tracheotomy that would have allowed him to live out his remaining days at home with his family. His parents fought this decision, and for months, Joseph's life remained in negotiation as advocacy groups fought the Canadian government to allow him the procedure, underscoring the sensitive balance many parents and health systems face between keeping patients alive as long as possible and pouring money and medical resources into a losing battle.

With the help of Priests for Life, a New York organization that lobbies against abortion rights and euthanasia, Joseph was eventually flown to a St. Louis hospital for the tracheotomy last April, which allowed him to spend his last five months at home with his family.

The Rev. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life, who led the effort to get Joseph end-of-life care in Missouri, commented on the infant's death in a statement:

"I learned with sadness tonight of the passing of Baby Joseph, and extend my prayers to his family. I praise God tonight for the tens of thousands who stood with Priests for Life and other 'pro-life' groups to save Baby Joseph. We remain convinced that the value of life is not measured in months or years, but rather, reflected in the love we share moment by moment."

Last February, Joseph's condition had deteriorated to the point where doctors at the Canadian hospital treating him presented his parents with a consent form that would allow doctors to take him off life support. But the Maraachlis refused to sign the waiver and fought for their son to receive a tracheotomy.

The case was brought to the Consent and Capacity Board, an independent body created by the government of Ontario, and then a Canadian Supreme Court judge. Both entities ruled that Joseph's breathing tube should be removed. It was only after Priests for Life offered to pay Joseph's medical costs that he could get the tracheotomy on March 21.

"I would call this a success," Pavone told ABC News at the time. "We did this based on the value of the child's life here and now, not based on any specific medical outcomes. The family wasn't looking for anything extraordinary, just to be able to have him at home."

"From the beginning, the point of view of the family has been 'If my child is dying, at least let us bring our child home,'" Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, who has acted as a spokesman for the Maraachli family, told ABC News last March.

"They weren't asking for extraordinary medical treatment or for the government to pay for a ventilator with an in-home nurse," he said.

But an April statement from London Health Sciences Center, where Baby Joseph has been treated since October 2010, read another way: "The LHSC position is consistent with the treatment plan approved by Ontario's Consent and Capacity Board as being in the best interest of Baby Joseph. It involves transferring him home, on a breathing machine, and then placing him the arms of his family before withdrawing the machine."

The statement went on to say: "The transfer would not involve performing a tracheotomy, which is not a palliative procedure. It is an invasive procedure in which a device is installed in a hole cut in the throat. It is frequently indicated for patients who require a long-term breathing machine. This is not, unfortunately, the case with Baby Joseph, because he has a progressive neurodegenerative disease that is fatal."

The controversy sparked heated debate throughout North America, and the hospital reportedly received several threats from people in the United States and Canada.

Some argued that a government's overriding parents' wishes would not happen in the United States -- at least for now -- because Americans currently pay for their own medical care. In Canada, healthcare is nationalized -- as it will be in the U.S. if the Affordable Health Care Act is fully enacted.

But Schadenberg said the main question here is: Who really has the right to decide on this baby's fate?

Pavone said it should not be up to medical professionals to determine whether treatment to improve a child's end-of-life was "worth it." "We respect their medical judgment but not their value judgment. The problem is that the medical people are making a value judgment on the life of the child," he told ABC News last spring.

Felicia Cohn, director of medical ethics at the University of California at Irvine, told ABC News last March that she had been involved in similar conflicts and an ethical review was needed.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


US Newborn Mortality Rate Higher than 40 Countries

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The newborn death rate in the United States is higher than in 40 other countries including Malaysia, Cuba and Poland, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal PLoS Medicine, examines data from 190 countries, finding that newborn deaths have declined over the past 20 years from 4.6 million in 1999 to 3.3 million in 2009.

But despite the overall decline, infant mortality has dropped much more slowly than other age groups, accounting for 41 percent of child deaths worldwide.

While the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is high compared with other wealthy countries, 99 percent of infant mortality occurs in low-income countries. Just five -- India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- account for more than half of the 3.3 million annual newborn deaths. India alone has more than 900,000 a year.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Concentration at an Early Age the Key to Success?

Laura Ciapponi/Getty Images(LONDON) -- A new study suggests babies trained to concentrate spend more time focusing on the task at hand, which could help them learn all kinds of new skills.

Researchers from the University of London in the U.K studied 42 11-month-old babies, half of whom were trained to concentrate by animated computer programs, while the other half watched regular TV. After 15 days, the babies were put to the test. Trained babies were better at focusing on a task, like interacting with a parent, and ignoring distractions, like puppets.

“Whenever there’s movement, our attention gets drawn to it,” said study author Sam Wass of the University of London’s Center for Brain and Cognitive Development. “The better you are at saying, ‘No, that movement isn’t interesting; I want stay focused on this,’ the better you’re going to do.”

Because their brains are still developing, babies have a remarkable ability to form new neural connections -- known as plasticity.

“The older you get, the less plastic your brain is,” Wass said. Think about a house: “If you start putting in alterations while the foundation’s being built, it’s easier than doing it after the house is finished.”

Mastering concentration can help children hone other skills, like reading, Wass said. But it’s unclear how long the effects of his 15-day computer-based training program will persist. Furthermore, most experts agree that tots’ TV and computer time should be kept to a minimum.

Wass said there are things parents can do daily to cultivate concentration in wee brains without serious screen time.

“There’s evidence that engaging in set tasks, like sitting and doing a puzzle with your child is a way of training to concentrate,” he said. “The infant can use the caregiver’s attention capacity as a sort of scaffold, training them to pay attention over longer periods of time.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mom, Partner Arrested for Forcing 4-Year-Old to Chug Beer

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(BRIDGEPORT, Conn.) -- A 29-year-old mother from Connecticut was arrested with her partner after allegedly ordering her 4-year-old son to chug a 40-ounce bottle of beer on a playground.

Juliette Dunn was charged with two counts of risk of injury to a child and two counts of second-degree assault June 28 after her son and her 10-month-old daughter tested positive for alcohol. The 10-month-old girl also tested positive for cocaine.

Thirty-three year-old Lisa Jefferson, who identified herself as Dunn's girlfriend, was arrested on the same charges.

A witness told police that Jefferson handed the boy a beer and told him to chug it. When he finished, police said, Jefferson called him an alcoholic.

Police found an empty 40-ounce bottle of Steel Reserve beer on the ground beside the boy and a baby bottle next to the baby containing a dark liquid that smelled like alcohol.

The children were taken to Bridgeport Hospital where, during an examination, the 4-year-old told a social worker "he likes Natural Ice beer, Budweiser beer, but didn't like the taste of Dog-Bite beer," according to the police report.

Drugs and alcohol can have severe and long-lasting effects on children's developing brains, according to Rahil Briggs, assistant professor of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

"Children's brains are more plastic than their adult counterparts. This means that they are disproportionately sensitive and responsive to input, both negative and positive," Briggs said. "This is why a four-year-old can learn Mandarin much more easily than can a 40-year-old, but it's also why abuse and neglect at an early age can be especially deleterious, and exert life-long impacts."

Because of their size, the same dose of drugs or alcohol is more potent in children than in adults.

"We do not know enough about exactly how drugs and alcohol affect the young developing brain, but we know that every single effect is negative, and some even life-threatening," Briggs said.

Dunn later admitted to smoking crack-cocaine 10 minutes before police arrived on the scene but said she didn't know how the baby tested positive for cocaine because she didn't breastfeed, according to the police report.

The children were temporarily placed in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. "In the process of doing that, we've induced a new trauma," admitted Alan Kazdin, psychology professor at Yale University. "There's no good solution here. But in the process of protecting, you sometimes have to hurt."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Record-Breaking Baby! 16-Pound Boy Born in Texas

KLTV(LONGVIEW, Texas) -- Everything really is bigger in Texas. On Friday, Janet Johnson gave birth to a baby boy, who entered the world weighing 16 pounds, more than double the average weight of a newborn.

Baby JaMichael was the heaviest baby to be born at Good Shepherd Hospital in Longview, and reportedly the largest newborn in the Lone Star State.

Johnson and her fiance, Michael Brown, knew that a big baby was coming soon. Two weeks before her Caesarean delivery, Dr. John Kirk, Johnson's obstetrician, said he expected the baby to weigh 12 or 13 pounds. But JaMichael even surprised the doctor.

"He was much larger than expected," said Kirk, explaining how JaMichael was the biggest baby he had ever delivered. "Both his mother and father are large people, and she was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which contributed to the baby's size."

"They're calling him 'Moose' up here," JaMichael's father told ABC News' East Texas affiliate, KLTV.

"I'm just excited that he's here," said Johnson.

Johnson delivered her baby a week early. Kirk said delivery wasn't induced before that because the staff needed to wait for JaMichael's lungs to fully mature.

"While infants of diabetic mothers are large in size, their organ function is not more developed," said Dr. Manuel Porto, a professor and chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at University of California at Irvine. "In fact, their lung development may be delayed. Early delivery can lead to respiratory problems for the newborn."

According to the Guinness World Records, Ann Bates of Canada gave birth to the biggest newborn, in 1879, when her baby weighed in at a whopping 23 pounds, 12 ounces.

Experts said a woman's uterus can indeed handle 16 pounds of baby (think twins), but the baby's large size does not come without dangers.

A rare genetic disorder can cause abnormally large babies, but usually, a heavy baby is because of diabetes in the mother.

"A baby gets this large usually because a mother has poorly controlled diabetes and the baby is getting extra glucose calories during the pregnancy," said Dr. Ian Holzman, chief of newborn medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, N.Y.

Risks to the baby include birth trauma, said Holzman. This would include nerve damage to the arm, abdomen or injury to the head, as the doctor pulls the infant out if delivered vaginally.

"There is also a risk of low blood sugar in the baby after delivery because the baby's pancreas has been making extra insulin to deal with the extra sugar," said Holzman. "Once the sugar spigot is turned off the insulin causes the baby's blood sugar to drop."

Kirk said the hospital staff is currently trying to get the baby's blood sugar levels back up. JaMichael isn't breathing on his own yet. But Kirk expects that baby and mother should be released from the hospital within two or three days. Kirk warned Johnson and Brown of the increased risks due to their baby's size, but he said he is optimistic, and happy to report that they are both doing well.

"He's really only had some minor problems," said Kirk. "We have made them aware of the possible complications down the road, but hopefully, they'll continue to be under medical care and we'll keep an eye on them."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


British Gov't: Get Kids Moving, Help Prevent Obesity

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Facing an obesity time bomb, Brits are being asked to get young kids out there and exercising.

With nearly a quarter of the population now obese and with that trend expected to increase, the advice from the government is to get young ones out early -- off the sofa and out of the stroller. Children under five are being advised to get into some form of physical activity for three hours, spread throughout the day.

The bottom line: obese kids are likely to become obese adults and British health campaigners say getting into the physical habit early makes sense on many levels.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drugging Moms to Slim Down Their Babies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- How far will we go to prevent childhood obesity? U.K. researchers are bringing the battle against obesity to babies still in the womb.

In this novel approach, which will ultimately enlist 400 pregnant women in the U.K., obese pregnant women will be given the diabetes drug Metformin in hopes of reducing their infant's chance of developing heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes later in life.

The study, funded by the U.K. government, will be one of the most extensive tests to date of a concept known as fetal programming -- changing the environment of the womb to affect the health of the child.

Doctors already use "fetal programming" in less extreme ways by encouraging pregnant women to take prenatal supplements, make dietary changes, and avoid drug and alcohol use. This study promises to introduce a whole new level that might one day be commonplace: using medications that the mother otherwise wouldn't need in order to tweak the fetal environment.

Natural fetal programming "is a complex process that's evolved over millions of years to help a fetus adapt to the world it will...encounter after birth," says Dr. Alison Stuebe, an assistant professor of maternal fetal medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill. "It is the way the mother 'tells' her baby what the world outside will be like."

Obese women tend to have higher blood sugar during pregnancy, and these high levels of blood sugar essentially "tell" the fetus that it needs to make a lot of insulin for itself. As a result, infants born to obese mothers tend to be heavier and produce more insulin. Research shows that these bigger babies grow up into children and adults who are at increased risk for obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

By giving obese mothers-to-be the diabetes drug Metformin -- even though they do not have diabetes -- researchers will be lowering their glucose levels, hopefully mitigating the negative effects of maternal obesity.

It will take years to determine if this intervention pays off. In the short term, however, how big these infants are at birth will serve as a preliminary marker of how well the Metformin is adjusting fetal environment.

But the trial may not be as far a leap into the unknown as it seems, doctors point out:

"Metformin is not a new drug and has been given to pregnant women for years to control diabetes in pregnancy," says Dr. Alan Peaceman, chief of the division of maternal fetal medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

While diet and exercise would be the preferred intervention for obese mothers, "patients often find this difficult, especially during pregnancy. Thus, Metformin may provide an alternative option for these women with similar lifelong benefits to the fetus," adds Dr. Victoria Bae-Jump, assistant professor of gynecology oncology at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Doctors seem more concerned that this type of fetal programming intervention can only provide a partial answer to the problem of maternal obesity.

"Ultimately, it's unlikely that a single pill or nutrient is going to override all the effects of maternal obesity on infant development," says Stuebe. There are so many environmental factors in play -- poverty, abuse, stressful environments, she says, that "I'm skeptical of a magic pill to counteract all that."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Baby Raised Genderless Is Bad Experiment, Say Experts

David De Lossy/Digital Vision(TORONTO) -- No one knows the sex of Storm Stocker, a four-month-old baby from Toronto. Only his parents, his midwives, and his two older brothers have ever peeked beneath the diaper.

That's because his -- or is it her -- parents, Kathy Witterick, 38, and David Stocker, 39, want to raise their child genderless.

When Storm came into the world in a birthing pool on New Year's Day, they sent out this email: "We decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime."

Even Storm's brothers, 2-year-old Kio and 5-year-old Jazz, along with one family friend have been sworn to secrecy.

"What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children," Stocker told the Toronto Star. "It's obnoxious."

The newspaper was barraged with critical responses and even Storm's grandparents, though supportive, said they resented explaining their gender-free baby to friends and coworkers.

While child development experts applaud the family's efforts to raise their child free of the constraints of gender stereotypes, they say the parents have embarked on a psychological experiment that could be "potentially disastrous."

"To raise a child not as a boy or a girl is creating, in some sense, a freak," said Dr. Eugene Beresin, director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It sets them up for not knowing who they are."

"To have a sense of self and personal identity is a critical part of normal healthy development," he said. "This blocks that and sets the child up for bullying, scapegoating, and marginalization."

"We all have sexual identity," said Beresin. "The mission to have masculine and feminine traits more equalized and more flexible and not judgmental is awesome in a utopian community. But we take pride in our sexual identity."

The family gleaned the idea for unique child-rearing from the 1978 children's book, X: A Fabulous Child's Story, by Lois Gould. The author uses symbolism and allegory to explore gender "creativity."

"Identity formation is really critical for every human being and part of that is gender," Beresin said. "There are many cultural and social forces at play."

Witterick and Stocker have been besieged with phone calls since the media grabbed on to their personal story.

"Thanks for your interest," said Storm's mother on a recorded message when ABC News called for comment. "We are really swamped with calls right now and our first priority is the needs of our family."

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