Superfood, Bilingual babies, Music Lessons – PediaCast 245

Join Dr Mike for another News Parents Can Use edition of our program. This week we cover an honest-to-goodness SUPERFOOD that could save your child’s life. We also explore the introduction of multiple languages to your infant and explain why 3-year-olds “know best.” Plus… When is the ideal time to start music lessons? And new research on paying attention to your child’s “media diet.” It’s all coming your way… this week… on Pediacast!


  • Superfood
  • Bilingual Babies
  • 3-year-olds "Know Best"
  • Music Lessons
  • Media Diet



Announcer: This is PediaCast.


Welcome to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. And now, direct from the campus of Nationwide Children's, here is your host, Dr. Mike.

Dr. Mike: Hello, everyone, and welcome once again to PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for moms and dads. This is Dr. Mike coming to you from the campus of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. It's Episode 245 for March 6, 2013. Our call now is in superfood, bilingual babies and music lessons.

So I'd like to welcome everyone to the program. We do have a few housekeeping items for you today which I will get to in a moment. But first, it's our first show of March. And that that means that spring is around the corner, and I'm really excited about that.


Well, it's around the corner at least, in terms of the calendar. Whether it's really around the corner in terms of the view outside my window is a different story. But those of you who live in Central Ohio know it's been really cloudy lately. And at this time of the year – I don't know. We just get this perpetual clouds and I looked up the stat once in Seattle.

You know, everybody thinks that Seattle is being really cloudy. And they only have like three more cloudy days than we do. So Central Ohio can be kind of dreary and cloudy and I don't know. I'm just – I'm ready for the sun. I've had enough of the clouds. And I'm sure many of you are with me on that.

Alright, what are we talking about today? Superfood. There is a food available that would save nearly 1 million lives every year if it were consumed at the right time and by the right people.


And no, I'm not a late night hackster here. This food exists, the claim is accurate. So what is it? How much does it cost? Who needs it? When do they need it? How do you find it? We'll clue you in, coming up.

Bilingual babies. What if you speak two languages on a regular basis at home? Should you use one preferentially around the baby, and then introduce the second one, once you hear she is talking well? If so, which one do you introduce first or do you just forget about it and use both languages when you want. Will your baby learn both at the same time or will he or she get confused? We'll let you know!

Speaking of knowing, kids always know better than their parents or at least, they think they do. Often to our chagrin, but a new study demonstrates that three-year olds really do know better than mom and dad. Stick around, we'll explain.

We also have music lessons in the line-up. How helpful are they? When should you start? Is there an ideal age and it is possible that music lessons affect other areas of development like athletic abilities? So could music lessons help or hinder athletic ability? We'll take a look.


And finally, we're going to examine your child's media diet. What are they consuming digitally and how does that consumption affect their behavior? There's been a lot of attention lately on screen time, but a new study looks into what your child watches and we'll break down the study for you and dial in to some resources that will help make picking the right TV shows and movies easier.

So as always, lots coming your way. But first, a couple of housekeeping items for you. The first one, it comes with an apology. We have some exciting news to soon reveal in PediaCast. And in preparation for that news, we'd have to tweak our terms of use agreement. So if you haven't read that lately, make sure you do. It's easy to find, it's on the website at We just had to make some tweaks, so just had to make sure that you are aware of that.


Second, if you use our Contact form, you'll see a little box that states "I agree to the PediaCast Terms of Use Agreement". And there's a convenient link so you can read the terms and clicking the checkbox is required now to send us a message.

So here's the deal. What's this all for? Well, because of our upcoming announcement and some exciting changes at PediaCast, we have to do a hard reboot on our listener questions.

So if you recently sent me a question and I have not answered it on the show, I think you do me a favor. And again, I apologize for this. Simply head over to and resubmit your questions. And make sure you check the little box thing that you've read and agreed to the updated Terms of Use. So just search your Sent Mail folder. Find the message you sent me and just if you Gmailed it and copy and paste it into the Contact form.


And if you typed it directly into the Contact Form, I apologize, but please just ask your question again. You know, you get the lawyers involved and they just – they just want to make sure that you know that we may actually read your question on the show. And that we're providing educational information and not medical advice. Now I know all of you know that, but we have to abide by the rules now, this little step.

So if I haven't answered your question again, send it again. If you haven't sent me a question and you'd like to or you've been thinking about it, now is a great time because my question pool is clearly dry since we have to do a reboot on the questions.

This change also means that we have to stop accepting questions from PediaCast at You can still email me there if you want to say hello. But if you forget and you send the question that way, I'll just reply and say, hey, a little reminder, copy and paste this into the Contact form at and check the little box that says you agree to the Terms of Use.

What about the Skype line? We're working on that one. But right now, please limit your questions to the Contact page at and I'll let you know when the Skype line is back up for business. We just have to get some wording on our outgoing message that talks a little more about the Terms of Use.


Alright. Really, there's nothing – the big thing on the horizon has to do a distribution and where people may be hearing PediaCast and so we just want to make sure that we have your permission to use your question wherever we like.

Alright, let's go on with our usual disclaimers so we can move on to the reason that you all stop by today. The information presented in every episode of PediaCast is for general educational purposes only. We do not diagnose medical conditions or formulate treatment plans for specific individuals. If you have a concern about your child's health, be sure to call your doctor and arrange face-to-face interview and hands-on physical examination.

Also, your use of this audio program is subject to the PediaCast Terms of Use Agreement which you can find at Alright, let's take a quick break and I will be back with News Parents Can Use right after this.



So what if I told you that there was a superfood that could save the lives of 830,000 people each and every year? You probably think I heard the claim while watching late night TV, and if I'd simply call this 1-800 number, the hackster on the screen would happily send me one month supply at a limited discount and prize, plus he'd throw the second month in for free. You know the drill.

But what if the claim came from a well-respected source? What if it were true? What if I aslo told you the superfood is readily available and free. Had have your attention, right? Well, as it turns out, all of these statements are true. The source is a well-respected organization called Save the Children and the superfood is breastmilk.


Save the Children reports that if all women around the world breastfed their babies immediately after birth, the lives of 830,000 babies a year could be saved. Unfortunately, they also report for significant barriers that prevents breastfeeding success. These include cultural and community pressures, help worker shortages, lack of maternity legislation and aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, says, "Last year, we saw a lot of hand ringing in this country over how long is too long for moms to breastfeed. But the real scandal is that many moms around the world don't get the support they need to start breastfeeding early or even at all to choice all mom should have and in the developing world that can literally be a matter of life and death for the babies."

The organization's recently published report "Superfood for babies, how overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children's lives." Because on the say that colustrum, as the first milk is called, jumpstarts the baby's immune system. Earlier breastfeeding also leads to higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding for six months, which further reduces vulnerability to malnutrition and deadly disease.


And in an analysis of the best available studies on early breastfeeding on Africa and Asia suggests that universal breastfeeding within the first hours of life so the kids getting that colustrum could save nearly 1 million lives each year. Breastfeeding is the world's most effective solution to reducing child deaths, yet global breastfeeding rates have stagnated at below 40% for two decades. Worldwide, one-third of all births, there are no skilled health workers attending the delivery or the first four hours of a baby's life and since many of the world cultures view colustrum as dirty, families opt for breastmilk substitutes instead.

Barriers also exist on the developed world where maternity leave is not always guaranteed and workplace policies often fail to support breastfeeding moms. In fact, American mothers have the industrialized world's lowest level of protection when it comes to maternity leave policy and only 6.7% of U.S. births occur in baby-friendly hospitals or breeding centers that meets World Health Organization's and UNICEF's guidelines for promoting early an exclusive breastfeeding.


See the children also points out that breastmilk is a nutritional superfood, providing babies with the best possible defense against malnutrition, which is the underlying cost of one in three child deaths globally, more than 2 million child deaths a year. And while breastfeeding guards against malnutrition, it also prevents overnutrition and lowers the chances for obesity.

Ms. Miles says, "Women everywhere should have all the support and information they need to make the best choices for themselves and for the health and survival of their children. At the same time, all of us can do something to help save hundreds of thousands of babies from needless death, it's a matter of raising our voices for this children."

If you'd like the reports, the entire reports, "Superfood for babies, how overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children's lives" from Save the Children it's entirety, I'll put a link in the show notes, Episode 245 over at


Let's stick with the theme of babies on a global level and talk about language and in particular, babies raise in home where two languages are spoken. Babies as young as seven months can distinguish between and begin to learn two languages with vastly different grammatical structures. That's according to new research from the University of British Columbia and Paris Descartes University which was recently published in the journal Nature Communications and presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

The study shows the infants in bilingual environments use pitch and duration cues to discriminate between languages such as English and Japanese with opposite word orders. In English, a function word comes before a content word. For example, the dog, his hat, with friends, for example. And the duration of the content word, you'll notice, was longer.


Now compare that with Japanese or Hindi where the order is reversed and the pitch of the content word is higher. Dr. Janet Werker, Professor of Psychology at University of British Columbia and co-author of the study, says, "By as early as seven months, babies are sensitive to these differences and use them as cues to tell the languages apart. Previous research by Dr. Werker and Dr. Judit Gervain, Linguist at Paris Descartes University and co-author of the study, showed the babies also use frequency of words in speech to discern their significance.

For example, in English, the words the and with come up a lot more frequently than other words. They're essentially learning by counting, says Dr. Gervain. But babies growing up bilingual need more than that. So they developed strategies that monolingual babies don't necessarily need to use. Dr. Werker says if you need to speak two languages at home, don't be afraid. It's not a zero sum game. Your baby is very equipped to keep these languages separate and they do so in remarkable ways.


So moms and dads, if you speak two languages at home, don't be afraid to use both of them around your baby. You know, I think many families out there look at it this way. Ah, we'll exclusively speak language A around the baby until here she is talking well and then we'll introduce language B. But here's evidence you don't need to do that. Speak both languages regularly, and your baby will be able to distinguish between them as early as seven months and will learn them both at the same time. Pretty amazing, really, and more evidence that the human brain has much more potential than we know.

Alright speaking of knowing, our next story examines young children who know better. Researchers at Yale University say even very young children understand that adults don't always know best. Dr. Kristina Olson, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Yale and co-author of the study, says, "In our experiments, most three-year olds were able to recognize that adults weren't making the best decisions and decided to be helpful in another way. Furthermore, we found that very young children are motivated to intervene when others are going about things in the wrong way, even when they're not prompted to do so."


The team's findings were published in the journal Developmental Psychology. Researchers embarked on a series of three experiments, involving fifty-eight children, thirty girls and twenty-eight boys. They presented the kids with four pairs of matched objects, one functional and the other dysfunctional. For example, a real phone and a toy phone; a functional glass and one that was cracked and had a hole on the bottom; a real hammer and a rubber toy hammer; a working marker and a dried-up marker.

Also, researchers did not point out any differences between the matched objects so kids have to make those observations for themselves and figure out that one was functional and the other one was dysfunctional. Each child had helped a researcher with the a specific task. The researcher might be writing a note and as the three-year old for a marker. And doing so, he would either point to the working marker or the dried-up marker. Or the researcher may have wanted to drive a nail into a piece of wood. So he would ask the child for a hammer and point to either the real one or the toy one.


Or the researcher might say, I want to pour some glass into – or I want to pour some water into a glass. Can you get me one? And then point to either the functional glass or the cracked one with a hole in the bottom. Or the researcher might say, I need to make phone call. So she'd ask the three-year old for the phone, again pointing to either the real one or the toy one.

So what were the results? Did the three-year old give the adults the item they asked for and pointed to or the item they needed? Well, that depends. If the functional item was clearly the one needed to complete the task, then the majority of kids handed the adult the functional item even when the adult pointed to the dysfunctional when he or she made the request.

However, if either item would work, for example, the researcher asked for the phone, so it could be used as a paper weight. Or asked for the marker so that it can be thrown away. In other words, if it didn't matter if the object was functional or dysfunctional, then the child was more likely to hand over the requested item.


Dr. Olson says, "It appears very young children can recognize that helping someone can sometimes mean paying attention to the ultimate goal, rather than the specific request." She says this works illustrates that even within the first years of life, children would have a remarkable understanding of helping.

A few things to point out here. Again, development of the human brain is really an amazing thing. I mean, think about it. Young kids aren't specifically thought what's useful and what's not useful in a specific situation. I mean you can't program that into your kid by uploading software version 2.0. I mean the human brain upgrades itself through experiences and observations and making connections, but you do have to give your child the opportunity to have those experiences, to make those observations, to form those connections.

We often talk on PediaCast about the importance of getting down the floor and spending significant quality time interacting with your kids. And sometimes as grown-ups, you know, we get more involved with our gadgets. We pay more attention to the buzz on our pocket which lets us know new text messages arrived. We install updated software, we download apps, we check Facebook, we listen to podcast.


And we all geeked out with our technological world, but right down there on the floor is something more amazing even technologically speaking than the gadget in our pocket. Our gadgets can even begin to compete with the potential that's inside that little noggin. But we do have to nurture it. We do have to turn off our phones and laptops and DVRs and get down on the floor and nurture it.

And when you have chores to do, elicit their help. Make it a game, get them involved. They can be more helpful than you think. Of course, we also want to keep them safe, so electrical work, changing the light switch, using the table saw, not good examples. But you get my point.

If you're interested in reading the entire journal article from Developmental Psychology, it's called When Kids Know Better: Paternalistic Helping in 3-Year Old Children, open the link to it in the Show Notes PediaCast 245 over at


Let's continue on our brain development journey and talk about music lessons. Dr. Virginia Penhune is a Professor of Psychology at Concordia University in Montreal. She had her colleagues wondered if music lessons, started at a young age, could boost brain development. Dr. Penhune explains, "Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and visual and auditory stimuli. Practicing an instrument before age seven likely boost the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain creating a framework upon which ongoing training can be built."

Researchers recruited thirty-six adult musicians and divided them into two groups. Eighteen of the adults had begun music training prior to age seven, while the other eighteen had begun music training at a later age. All of the musicians in both groups have the same number of years of music training and experience. Researchers also included a third group comprised of adults with little or no music training or experience. So what do they do?


Well, researchers had all the adults complete motor or movement tasks and scan their brains to determine connections and structure. What do they find? Well, musicians who began music training prior to age seven years showed more accurate timing on the motor tasks than those who began music training after age seven and those with little or no music training. And these results held true even after all the groups were allowed to practice the motor movements for two days.

With regard to the brain scans, musicians who began music prior to age seven years showed enhanced white matter in the corpus callosum, which is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right motor regions of the brain. The researchers also found that the younger a musician started, the greater the connectivity.

What about those who began music training after age seven? Were their brains at least better developed than those with little or no formal music training? No. Those two groups have similar scans. Researchers say this finding means enhancement of the corpus callosum either happens early or it doesn't happen at all.


And this research also demonstrates that the benefits of early music training prior to age seven years, has benefits that extend beyond music itself since the motor movements tested were nonmusical in nature. Dr. Robert Satori, a Professor at McGill University and co-author of the study, says, "Our findings are significant in showing that training is more effective at early ages because certain aspects of brain anatomy are more sensitive to changes at those time points."

Dr. Penhune adds, "It's important to remember that, what we are showing, is early starters have some specific skills and difference in the brain that go along with that. But these things don't necessarily make them better musicians. Musical performance is about skill, but it's also about communication, enthusiasm, style and many other things that we did not measure. So while starting at an early age may help express your child's genius, it probably won't make them a genius."


So moms and dads, if you are considering introducing little Bobby or little Jane to the piano or the violin or whatever other musical instruments strike your fancy, quick! Do it before they turn seven. They will not only benefit from a musical standpoint, but it may end up helping their baseball or volleyball career as well.

Alright, let's move on to our final story this week. We've all heard that too much screen time is not good for kids. We've heard it, we believe it. It makes sense. Too much screen time is associated with sedentary lifestyles, obesity, the potential for sleep problems and can interfere with motor development and social interactions.

But as parents, we must not only guard time, we must also pay attention to the content of our family's media diet. So says Dr. Dimitri Christakis – sorry about that, Dr. Dimitri. He is the Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children's Research Institute. Dr. Christakis and colleagues – see it just flowed off my tongue that time. Dr. Christakis and colleagues, I'm going to get an email from him with an audio file attached with the proper pronouncement of his name or pronunciation of his name.


It is – I'm sorry, folks. I'm losing it now. Let's try this again. Dr. Christakis and colleagues studied 565 families with children between the ages of three and five years who spent at least some time watching TV or video content each week. The families were divided into two groups: an experimental group which was prescribed a special media diet; and a controlled group which received nutritional dietary advice instead.

So let's look at these groups a bit more closely. What exactly is a media diet? Well, families in the experimental group received coaching on how to substitute violent media programs with pro-social and educational ones. The coaching focus on TV watching and videos, but other forms of digital entertainment, such as computer programs, video games and mobile devices were also included in the discussions.

Now you maybe asking, what is pro-social content? Well, the researchers define this as content which encourages children to be kind and to share and programming that portrays adults has dependable. Now the controlled group received no such counseling, but the researchers did provide these families with guidance on healthy eating habits. So their time wasn't wasted.


Okay, so what do they do with these two groups over the link, their course of the study period? Well, families in both groups kept a media diary which provided details of the amount of time each child spend with the screen and also what they were watching. The experimental group received some additional help including monthly program guides and a sample DVD of proposed pro-social content with choices that would appeal to boys and girls, of various ages and from diverse backgrounds.

These families were also steered to a website called Common Sense Media, which provides family-friendly ratings for movies, TV shows, websites and video games. The interventions did not attempt to reduce the amount of time each child spent with digital content, they did encourage co-viewing with parents and children engaging in content together and as mentioned, they focused on the substance of that content. The case manager followed up with families in both groups over 8, 12-month period.


So what did they find? Well, at six months and twelve months out, children in the experimental group, so the group with pro-social content counseling and media-viewing resources, these kids were spending significantly less time watching violent programs. They were demonstrating significantly fewer aggressive behaviors and they were engaged in significantly more pro-social actions compared to their behavior before the study and compared with the children in the controlled group who had received only nutritional counseling.

Dr. Christakis and his team conclude the interventions which focused on changing the content of digital programming can positively impact child behavior. He says, "We often focus on how much kids watch and don't focus enough on what they watch." While too many children watch too much TV, this study shows that content is as important as quantity. And it isn't just turning off the TV, it's also about changing the channel.


Dr. Christakis offers some additional tips for parents. Keep a media diary to make sure you're aware of the TV and movies your child is watching, choose less violent and more pro-social content for your kids to watch and use resources like Common Sense Media to help you make those choices. And watch TV and movies with your children so you're more aware of the content.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics and if you'd like to see the entire article, I'll put a link in the Show Notes PediaCast 245 at I'll also include link to the Common Sense Media website. I've used that before in the past to make decisions for what my kids could watch. I think it's a good site. They also have an iOS app as well, so I'll get you a link to that too, again in the Show Notes for PediaCast 245 at

So my apologies to Dr. Christakis in my mispronunciation of his name and Dimitri, if you're upset at me, just send me an email so I can get your name right the next time.


Alright, that concludes this week's edition of PediaCast. I'm going to be back with a final word. It's coming your way, right after this.


You know, it's one thing when you mispronounced someone's name who you've never met and you just see it in writing when you read the journal article and actually having a real-life human being in the studio and mispronouncing their name, which I've been known to do. So my apologies no only to Dr. Christakis, if that's how you pronounce his name, but also to Dr. Stukus here on the Staff of Nationwide Children's Hospital who I kept calling, Dr. Stukus during our interview. Shame on me. I'll learn, just takes me a few years.


If I had to put a theme on this episode of PediaCast, we went pretty heavy on the stand involve with your kids message, right? And when we talked about getting down on the floor with them, we talked about putting away the gadgets and spending quality time together. We talked about music lessons, starting playing instruments together, you can do that together. That's a lot of fun.

And we talked about picking appropriate shows and movies and watching them together. So for my final word this week, I just want to encourage all the moms and dads out there to really make an effort to do something fun and creative and interactive with your kids on a regular basis. And start this week. Don't put it off. Have a lunch or dinner out with each of your kids, one on one. Now I know, family meals are important, but one-on-one time is important too and it let your kids know they are special and you care about each one of them as individuals.


Go where they want to go. Do what they want to do. This isn't the time to be selfish. And don't just enjoy a meal together. You know, stack blocks, put together legos, catch a play or movie or go to a park, maybe fly a kite once the clouds go away and the sun comes out. Science museums are fun. My son is excited about the upcoming IMAX release of Jurassic Park in 3D. And I'm excited about that one too. So I've already requested a day off when it premieres, and we're definitely going to have a father-son dinner in the movie on the horizon.

Now, if this is foreign to you, if one-on-one time is out of your comfort zone, maybe you feel like you don't really know your teenager anymore. Look, it's never too late and it's not about you being comfortable. It's about loving on your kids. And it doesn't matter what you do, the important thing is that you do it together. And that's my final word.

I also want to thank all listeners out there for taking time out of your busy days to make PediaCast a part of it. We really do appreciate it. As I typically mentioned, iTunes reviews are helpful. If you've not done that, I'd really appreciate it. It takes five minutes of your time and it just helps – I'm sorry that was a little iPhone alarm going off and I apologize.


I feel like the show is just falling apart, folks. iTunes reviews help to keep us on the What's Hot cat list in the Kids's and Family section of the podcast directory in iTunes. And so when we get into reviews, it kind bumps us up a little bit. And they just keep us in front of parents' eyes when they're checking out that page. So just five minutes of your time would really appreciate a quick iTunes review, if you've not done that. Also, links, mentions, shares, retweets, rePins, all those things on your social media sites. We're on Facebook, we're on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest.

And of course, tell your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers about the show and most importantly of all, let your child's doctor know. So the next time you go to your pediatrician or your family practice doc's office for a well check-up or sick office visits, say hey, got this resource for you. It's evidence-based from a board-certified pediatrician and which is why we want to let you know about it. And we do have posters available under the Resources tab at so they can help spread the word.


I also want to remind you that if you have a question for me or you want direct me to a new story or just want to say hi, please use the Contact link. So go to, click Contact, and use that page with the new checkbox to say that you have read and agreed to our Terms of Use agreement. And again, we're doing a hard reboot of the listener questions. And again, sincerely, and I really do mean this. I really am sorry and I really do ask for your forgiveness. I know, a lot of you have put time and effort into the questions that you send me and for me to say I have to discard them and please send them in, I really am sorry about that.

So just trust me though that the changes that we're making that are on the horizon are exciting ones and it will all make sense once we can make the announcement. In the meantime though, please just use the Contact page at and if you have not sent me a question before but you've thought about it, now is the great time to actually do it because I pretty much have no questions to answer at this point, since we have to start over.


Alright, that concludes our News Parents Can Use edition of PediaCast this week. Until next time, this Dr. Mike saying stay safe, stay healthy, and as I've been mentioning, stay involved with your kids. So long, everybody.


This program is a production of Nationwide Children's. Thanks for listening! We'll see you next time on PediaCast.

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