The week's best parenting advice: January 5, 2021
Why masks aren't ruining kids' emotional development, no cake for babies, and more
Should expecting moms get a COVID-19 vaccine?
Distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has begun, but guidance for pregnant and nursing mothers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remains ambiguous. Many women, already reporting pandemic-exacerbated pregnancy anxiety, are wondering what the safest option is for themselves and their children. "With the exception of the smallpox vaccine," The Washington Post reports, "vaccines have been safe and enormously beneficial for pregnant women and their babies. Experts say the safety of the new mRNA vaccines, which do not contain live virus, would probably be similar." Furthermore, COVID-19 itself can produce complications in pregnancy. Still, without more clinical data on pregnant and lactating women, experts recommend weighing personal pros and cons in conversation with one's doctor.
Study: Masks likely aren't ruining kids' emotional development
Masks used to curb the spread of COVID-19 are unlikely to damage children's understanding of emotions, psychologists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison conclude in a newly published study. Researchers asked children aged 7 to 13 to identify emotions in faces partially obscured by masks or sunglasses. In real life, body language and tone would provide additional emotional cues. "Kids are really resilient," said study coauthor Ashley Ruba, a postdoctoral researcher in the university's Child Emotion Lab. "They're able to adjust to the information they're given, and it doesn't look like wearing masks will slow down their development in this case."
USDA say no cake for babies
New U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations for infants and toddlers for the first time since the department began issuing nutrition guidance in 1985. The recommendations for 2020 to 2025 advise exclusive breastfeeding from birth to six months or, if breastfeeding isn’t possible, iron-fortified baby formula. Four months is the absolute earliest to introduce solid foods, the USDA says, though one in three U.S. babies is given solids before that milestone now. Common allergens like peanuts, eggs, and soy should be introduced early, the guidelines direct, and children under 2 shouldn't eat anything with added sugar, like cake or candy.
How and why to teach your kid to know your neighbors
Children who know their neighbors are more likely to flourish in their community and stay out of trouble, advises writer and educator Esther Peverley at Moms. Teach your children to greet near neighbors when you see them outside, she says, and model good neighboring by getting to know neighbors yourself. "When you have a good relationship with your neighbors, they will be more willing and likely to look out for your kids" when you can't, Peverley writes. Knowing neighbors "will also allow your child to seek the advice or safety of someone else," she notes, "should the need arise."
How to decide to go back to daycare
"How did you or other parents make the decision to use childcare again?" asks a letter to Slate's "Care and Feeding" advice column. "These are impossible decisions," columnist Emily Gould replies, but she advises her overwhelmed correspondent that she "need[s] childcare in order to do [her] job and protect [her] mental health." "If your day care is open and hasn't had any cases," Gould adds, "I would feel comfortable, in your shoes, sending my kid back there, especially as vaccines begin to roll out." For other parents weighing the same question, try this decision-making tool from economist Emily Oster, author of Cribsheet.