In this election cycle, candidates are discussing family leave more openly than ever before. The U.S. is still the only developed nation that does not mandate paid maternity leave, and many new parents cannot take time off to care for their families without risking economic security. Some politicians assert that the country cannot afford a national paid leave program, despite plentiful evidence to the contrary. Under current workplace conditions 88% of women get no paid leave at all, and nearly 25% return to work within two weeks of giving birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their baby’s life, but this is nearly impossible for many working mothers to do. Full support of a woman’s right to breastfeed should include her right to do so without risking her job.
A recent study featured in Pediatrics, “Children’s Food and Beverage Promotion on Television to Parents,” looked at commercials for children’s foods and beverages aired on television for a year and sorted them into ads aimed at children and ads aimed at parents. While child-directed ads used fun and adventure to sell products, parent-directed ads tended to use themes of family bonding, and portrayed many nutritionally questionable foods as healthy. “This marketing strategy consists of a one-two punch, with the children’s ads aiming to increase the likelihood of a purchase request from the child, and the parent advertising aiming to undermine the parent’s ability to say ‘no’ to the request,” said Diane Gilbert-Diamond, a senior author of the study.
Researchers from Northern Arizona University posed a question: what role do toys play in infant language learning? Their study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, examined the types of toys used by infants during play and the quality of the resulting parent-child communication. Twenty six parent-infant groups were provided with electronic “language development” toys, traditional toys (blocks, for instance), and books. As they played, researchers recorded and analyzed their conversations. The results suggest that play with books and traditional toys is far superior to play with electronic toys in promoting high-quality, parent-child communication. Parents spoke far fewer words to their child when playing with electronic toys in comparison to play with books (39.62 words per minute vs. 66.89). This led researchers to suggest that electronic toys for infants be discouraged in favor of traditional toys and books, which better foster parent-child communication.