Professor in the Faculties of Nursing and Medicine (Pediatrics) and the Norlien/Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation Chair in Parent-Infant Mental Health at the University of Calgary, expert advisor, EvidenceNetwork.ca
The youth of any society constitute the promise of the future -- and many of our youth are in trouble. They are growing up in a divided society with ethnic, gender and political tensions at seemingly combustible proportions -- not just south of the border, but in Canada too.
Depressed mothers are at very high risk to stop breastfeeding by eight weeks postpartum. But this is because depression often negatively colours mothers' cognitive perceptions which interferes with their ability to accurately interpret their baby's cues.
Promoting a breastfeeding culture should not be seen as an affront to women who, for whatever reason, choose to formula feed their babies. We live in a society where multiple approaches are respected. BFI does not advocate one size fits all, rather it advocates promoting the best evidence so everyone can make the most informed decisions about baby feeding.
Canadian indigenous people have been described as "ghosts of history," spectres lingering in the background, haunting our legacy. This refers to the fact that indigenous people have been ignored to a great extent in Canadian history, yet Canadians are fully aware that indigenous people were here long before the arrival of the Europeans.
We are a long way off from identifying definitive biomarkers and personalized gene therapies are likely generations away. The hype is big, but our hope is misplaced. The science isn't there yet, and the sooner we stop putting our faith in near-miraculous breakthroughs, the sooner we can realistically survey the options at hand.
UNICEF recently released a report card ranking child well-being in the 29 richest countries on earth. Canada came 17th, placing us in the bottom half of the pack on factors such as child poverty, emotional well-being and life satisfaction. It's time to have a frank conversation about how our country approaches early childhood.
Something is amiss in Canada. A 2014 UNICEF report compared the health and development of children in Canada with 28 other wealthy nations. In spite of being a G8 country, Canada's children rank number 17th, a status that has not budged in the last 10 years. The question is, why are these problems still so widespread?
Despite our fretting, technology isn't going away, and simply cloistering our children from it is neither beneficial nor practical. To succeed in the modern world, children will need to embrace technology without being consumed by it. And the difference between these two fates lies in the hands of parents.
It's no secret that dads are important, and that their role as caregivers has, for many families, broadened in the last 50 years. But there's one period of our development where dads tend to take a back seat -- the first nine months, to be precise.
Last month, it was reported that an Edmonton woman was badly beaten by her spouse. Though the attack put her in the hospital, the police offered a silver lining by stating that her unborn baby, at least, wasn't harmed. Sadly, this claim underestimates the profound effect severe stress can have on children's development in their first years of life, including while they're still in the womb.
On every metric, children from disadvantaged homes face greater challenges to success than their more privileged peers. As a result, they do worse in school, get poorer paying jobs and suffer disproportionately from violence, addiction and mental health issues.
We need to shift back to an earlier, more communal notion of family. There are a number of ways to do this. Policy is one avenue -- tax incentives for grandparents providing short- or long-term childcare or employers that allow flexibility for family time, for instance. Ultimately, though, the change we need is not procedural, but cultural. We need to understand and embrace the fact that families matter, just as we need to expand our concept of what a family is. There is room in the definition for friends and neighbours alongside grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Caregivers don't need great riches to support their children. A strong, supportive adult figure can help children overcome otherwise unhealthy environments. This figure need not even be the child's parents (though of course this helps). A grandparent, and aunt, a family friend, even a dedicated teacher can have a tangible, long-lasting impact on a child's development.
At long last, people are talking about postpartum depression. Dismissed for years as no more than a touch of the baby blues (or else unheard of entirely), PPD has become an open subject. But despite this progress, postpartum depression remains misunderstood in one very critical regard: namely, that it's something that only happens to, and thus only adversely affects, mothers.
Childhood is not quite the stress-free paradise that our rose-tinted memories might suggest. Children -- even infants -- can suffer from chronic, toxic stress. It's stress of a very different sort than that of meetings and mortgage payments, but its long-term effects can be no less serious. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched an urgent call to action informing healthcare practitioners of the dangers of toxic stress to children. Cleary, toxic stress is serious stuff. But what is it, exactly?